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Faux Pelini’s Advice for Bronco’s 2015 Campaign
- Updated: December 12, 2014
For a week or so, there was some speculation Bronco Mendenhall was considering or being considered for the Oregon State job. There’s now a report that denies he was ever a candidate, but the way coaching searches go, it’s tough to know for sure.
Regardless of how it happened, Bronco is still in Provo and for now it certainly seems that Bronco and crew will be riding together again in 2015.
As a head coach, Bronco certainly must receive a lot of advice from a lot of people. It’s probably not fun to hear from everyone, but Internet funny man Faux Pelini has a great handle on how things actually work in college football. His column from just before the real Pelini was fired was titled, “How to be a college football coach who doesn’t get fired for a while.”
Faux Pelini gives two quick tips and three rules for college coaches to stay employed. I know you don’t want to listen to me, Bronco, but please, listen to this man and his cat.
Tip 1: You have to recruit a lot. This means visiting and texting 17-year-old boys every day, something that would get you arrested if you had a different job.
When fans hear Bronco says things like he feels a special responsibility to surround Taysom Hill with the best players possible, or more recently, that he first wants the top LDS talent and next, the very best talent available, that’s good. Custom sketches are maybe a bit weird, but that’s a unique effort. Coaches like to see effort from their players. Fans like to see effort from their coaches.
It’s a nice counter-weight to the idea that Bronco perhaps resents begging kids to come play for him. When anecdotes are floating around that Bronco would rather have the kids recruit the school, it makes people wonder if they would better with a coach that was more aggressive in selling the school.
Several reports suggest that a part of Gary Andersen’s move from Wisconsin to Oregon State was due to the tougher academic standards. I suppose Andersen’s previous coaching stops this wasn’t as big a concern. Recruiting at BYU is really hard. Keep texting those kids, Bronco.
Tip 2: You also have to spend time with rich alumni and pretend you are not spending time with them because they are rich alumni.
How Bronco does glad-handing the BYU boosters is a question for the BYU boosters. I would guess feelings among high-level boosters aren’t too different from anyone else; there’s probably some who are still very excited about the future with Bronco Mendenhall, and some who, well, aren’t as pumped up these days. All these people give money to BYU because they love BYU. Maybe that’s some common ground to build on.
Rule 1: Make sure that it costs a pile of money to fire you.
If BYU were a public school, we would know exactly how much it would cost to potentially buyout anyone’s contract at BYU, but as it stands, we don’t even know if there is a buyout clause in the three-year contract that was negotiated after the 2012 season. Even then, BYU has the reputation of not being the kind of school that fires people easily. Still, the basic rules of “the firing formula” (costing more to fire you than people want to pay) apply, it’s just no one knows what those costs are.
Rule 2: Have the two intangibles: (1) Be likable and (2) Be your school’s boyfriend or girlfriend
Back in August and September, it felt like there were big efforts being made in the likability area. There were plenty of comments about the joke-cracking, laid-back Bronco that rolled out through fall. Of course, once things went south in October, jokes were for the most part, wisely put away.
Win or lose, if Bronco is looking for something to help reach out to fans, this advice may be his best opportunity to be likeable: “Make everyone believe you love your school more than anything. This is a giant lie, of course.”
This is where those comments about not particularly liking gameday, or not watching football on a day off come up. No one likes a coach that doesn’t like football.
Maybe it’s just not in Mendenhall’s nature to play this odd PR game, but the advice here is to find things you can honestly say that you love, not just about the church and being flag bearers, but things about the BYU football team.
Rule 3: Know the Main Thing.
The secret is that your job isn’t just to win a bunch of football games. It’s to win enough football games and do a few other things in order to allow the Main Thing to happen.
At Nebraska BYU, for example, the Main Thing is to make the fans feel like it can one day be the 1990s 1980s again. Whether it can or cannot actually be the 1990s 1980s again is not the point. That means the coach must win big games and bowl games and recruiting battles so it feels like the train is once again leaving the station for Titlesville. When Nebraska BYU loses big games, the fans aren’t just frustrated about the loss. They are frustrated because THIS ISN’T WORKING. Nebraska BYU fans want building blocks and things to celebrate so it seems like the team is just a couple tweaks away from the top five. Tom Osborne LaVell Edwards created a monster; you must feed the monster, or the monster will eat you.
That’s a pretty harsh assessment. Faux Pelini is writing for humor, but I don’t think he’s wrong. Pelini just got fired for being a jerk, but also for losing four games a year like clockwork. At Nebraska, enough people lost faith and the real Pelini was replaced. We haven’t reached that point at BYU, but it’s not that dissimilar to other fanbases.
USC Just lost to the UCLA for the third time in row. Sanctions aside, plenty of USC fans are not impressed with Sarkisian. What’s especially odd in Bronco’s case is that his teams have lost to an in-state team that finished the year ranked lower by S&P for five straight years. You can’t lose like that three (or four or five) times in a row without people getting frustrated.
Virginia Tech has a long-tenured, successful coach, but they finished 6-6. Even with years of past success to rely on, you can’t lose games, and particularly you can’t have a massive melt down on a whole side of the ball like not scoring in regulation against Wake Forest without people wondering if changes are needed.
But as I said, questions about change will have to wait for another day. Bronco Mendenhall seems oddly aware of this dance, recently opening his coach’s show by joking, “Is this where I’m supposed to be vulnerable and open?”
Bronco’s spoke very specially about the odd expectations of a college football coach. “Once you become BYU’s head football coach, there’s this kind of role you have play as well. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t the other part, when the camera’s aren’t on,” he said. Bronco further explained that by saying the wrong thing, “you just run the risk of not being the head coach anymore.”
One of the most interesting quotes from the interview was that Bronco feels he “might be able to have a 20-year ultimate cage fighting career after what’s pent up.”
So, Bronco feels like he is caged up by playing the role of BYU’s head coach, fans feel like Bronco’s being caged up by playing the role of BYU’s head coach and fans have almost universally have reacted positively to interviews like the one linked above.
Being a head coach anywhere often means you’re playing a bit of a role. Head coaches always represent the institution and are often the state’s highest paid employee, but it’s not this uncomfortable at every school. Everyone seems to like the “real” Bronco a lot more. Most BYU fans would just as soon have shorts-in-the-snow Bronco coaching out there anyway.
If Bronco has 20-year’s worth of cage-fighting energy pent up from playing a role, why do it?
Why not start over and release all that cage-fighting rage onto what will hopefully be Taysom Hill’s senior campaign?
What’s the worst that could happen if Bronco goes Bolworth next year? He gets fired? As Faux Pelini says, everyone is only a head college football coach for a while, anyway.