Do returned missionaries give BYU a competitive advantage?
Reilly pointed out that half of BYU's players that year had served missions, and 21 of them were at least 24 years old, giving the Cougars an unfair advantage.
"I look in their locker room and see guys with receding hairlines," then-Wyoming coach Vic Koenning told Reilly. "I look out and see a lot of my guys still wearing their high school letter jacket."
Meanwhile, current BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall is adamant that the missionary program gives the Cougars a big edge over the competition, but only when handled properly.
"I remember as a coach at New Mexico or as a player at Oregon State coming to play BYU and thinking, 'How are we going to beat those guys? They've got all of those old guys on the line and they're big and mature. Man, we're just young guys.' I remember thinking that as a coach and as a player. The missionary program is one of the greatest tools this program has. Is it a challenge to manage? Sure it is, in terms of chemistry and continuity. However, they're better people when they return in all areas of their lives."
Mendenhall understands the challenge of depending so heavily on players who walk away from the game for two years.
"As I watch (returned missionaries) come back and put a 10-pound plate on each side of the bar and struggle with it, I wonder about the missionary program," he joked. "But over time, those young men, and their experience, maturity and leadership, prove to be a strength."
But if everyone really believed that missions were a boost to a school's athletic program, wouldn't other programs send their players away for two years, too? Maybe it's an advantage for BYU, but not in the way most people think.
By the way, Brother Tubbs, would you like to hear the discussions?
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