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Dick Harmon: Utah State loss catalyst for changes at BYU

Published: Thursday, Dec. 30 2010 11:27 p.m. MST

Offensive coordinator Robert Anae coached several talented players, including Max Hall, left, John Beck, Harvey Unga and Dennis Pitta.

Mike Terry , Deseret News

PROVO — Outside University Stadium shortly after BYU blasted UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl, Cougar offensive coordinator Robert Anae stood apart from the rest of the players and coaches over by the buses with his son.

This is a time when players and staff pick up box lunches and drinks and migrate from the showers to the buses that await departure for a charter flight at the airport, a ritualistic and routine scene repeated every road game.

After wins, it is a joyful atmosphere with plenty of celebrating, laughing and joking around as players meet family and friends before leaving the stadium.

Anae's separateness, the body language, the setting placed against the backdrop of BYU just posting the most points ever in a bowl game didn't equate — not to me, not to other observers at the time.

Twelve days later, Anae resigned as BYU's offensive coordinator. His destination is unknown, despite speculation that often accompanies these things.

As it turns out, that scene spoke volumes about impending changes about to take place on BYU's offensive coaching staff. A little more than 24 hours later, five offensive coaches met with head coach Bronco Mendenhall and were asked to spiff up resumes. The next day, a Tuesday, BYU's website posted a job opening for "one-plus" assistant football coach(es).

Thursday marked the first domino from that Monday meeting. Anae resigned.

Anae leaves BYU with a remarkable record of both impacting talent and producing statistics — none loftier than a nation-leading third-down-conversion rate in 2009 and NFL quarterbacks John Beck and Max Hall. His tight end, Dennis Pitta, became BYU's all-time reception leader, and running back Harvey Unga broke BYU's all-time rushing mark without playing his senior season.

Anae decided it was time to move on to other opportunities in his life. He was not fired. He left of his own accord, said the Thursday press release issued by the university.

Before the book is closed on Anae as offensive coordinator at BYU and a different era opens up from this reign between the Gary Crowton days and what lies beyond, there is one aspect of his arrival in Provo that should be rectified.

There is a perception that Mendenhall did not hire Anae in that furious week of firing, courting and hiring following the Crowton era at the end of 2004.

It is an understanding I bought over the years because of how crazy that week was with Kyle Whittingham giving an oral agreement to coach at BYU, then changing his mind before it was finalized.

Did Mendenhall hire Anae? Some say it is a matter of semantics of who hired whom and when. As you remember, it was the same fall that BYU also fired men's and women's athletic directors Val Hale and Elaine Michaelis.

The acting athletic director after Hale and Michaelis was university advancement vice president Fred Skousen. He auditioned two associate athletic directors, Peter Pelling and Tom Holmoe, for the job to oversee both men's and women's programs.

Skousen would hire those that would continue in the department, including Mendenhall, Holmoe and basketball coach Dave Rose. He oversaw approval of Mendenhall's recommended staff with the help of former Pac-10 coach Holmoe.

This is where it gets sticky. Some say Anae was hired for Mendenhall and he accepted the forced hire.

In reality, Holmoe and Mendenhall flew to Lubbock, Texas, in those rapidly unfolding days of transition between Crowton and Mendenhall. There, Mendenhall interviewed Anae, who was the tight end and offensive line coach at Texas Tech under Mike Leach.

Mendenhall chose to hire Anae.

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