Dick Harmon: Bronco returns Y. to its roots

Published: Thursday, March 24 2005 12:00 a.m. MST

BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall applauds a performance in spring football drills this month in Provo.

Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

He hovered around the last players on the field doing rope pull-ups after Tuesday's practice before talking to reporters in a drizzling rain outside the new Student Athlete Center at BYU.

Bronco Mendenhall just finished his first 100 days on the job. It's been a blur. In this time, he's dealt with personnel issues, brought his focus points to the squad, designed a management strategy, took his vision to the public, finished recruiting and mapped out a plan for spring drills that includes installing a new offense.

So, what's been the toughest task?

"I would say a constant state of readiness is the thing, an ever present, a feeling a decision is to be made at any minute or any hour that's what I feel most," Mendenhall said.

"It's a constant state of readiness. It may not be an increase in demand or the workload in a given day, the knowledge that it could at any time turn is something.

Sounds like stress — or pressure — a natural outbreak of new job duty.

"The pressure I feel isn't any more as I've felt the past few years under coach Gary Crowton," Mendenhall said.

"What I do feel is the weight of responsibility and scope of my assignment. What my job covers is so far-reaching that I really want to represent this institution and this football team correctly with the right attention to detail that that in itself becomes a tremendous job and it's 24-7, is what I've learned.

"It's exhilarating and after this 100 days is over, I've learned more about my self and this football team — I hope is only the beginning."

Behind the scenes, Mendenhall watchers are impressed. "He's a remarkably good listener," said one aide. "He values the opinions of others and he is anxious to learn."

Breaking down the 100 days, here are a few Mendenhall tracks in the sand.

Mendenhall has sought counsel from inside and outside. He's tapped in to traditional BYU sources and invited advice from professional organizational behavioral scientists including Paul Gustavson, a former football player who's San Jose-based Organization Planning and Design, Inc., has serviced the likes of National Semiconductor, the Veterans Administration, AT&T Credit Corp and NASA.

Mendenhall has broken down every aspect of BYU football, operations, budget, personnel and evaluated efficiency. He's tweaked every part of BYU football from communications, academics, workouts, practices and staff assignments to summer camps.

Mendenhall has implemented strategy. For instance, all 117 Division I football teams recruit, have academic programs and practice.

Mendenhall wants to create a sustainable competitive advantage by doing these routines better than 116 competitors.

To dig deeper into this strategy, take recruiting. BYU doesn't and will not recruit like other schools. So, Mendenhall designed a plan of attack unique to BYU.

BYU has a database of 1,700 former athletes. They've targeted them with letters, inviting their involvement. They've sent out invitations for former players to attend practice, breakout meetings and scrimmage on April 1. They've had response, the oldest, a player from 1934.

The idea is to spread ownership of the program, pay respect to tradition and those who've already invested. In the process, Mendenhall has a map of the country marked with former player locations, men who could help identify talent and have agreed to be eyes and ears of BYU football.