Bronco Mendenhall, Kyle Whittingham don't let friendships divert goals

Published: Saturday, Feb. 23 2013 2:40 p.m. MST

Whittingham initiated his move by contacting Erickson several weeks ago. The Ute coach wasn’t about to replace Johnson, but was all in favor of accelerating his education. Last week, Erickson called Johnson “a superstar in our business.”

Rising star, maybe. But superstar? Not yet.

The changes at Utah and BYU were notable because both Whittingham and Mendenhall are renowned for their loyalty. Whittingham’s hires have mostly come from a short list of former players and locally based coaches. Mendenahall tends to hire as though picking counselors for an LDS ward, which makes sense since BYU tends to be, well, LDS.

Yet both head coaches made those uncomfortable changes by putting business above friendship, and taking the fight to the enemy. Mendenhall says top-25 rankings are a minimum goal for the Cougars. Whittingham just worries about getting past Oregon, USC and Stanford. (Beat them and rankings are sure to follow.)

Nothing says winning and friendship must be mutually exclusive. But winning comes first for Mendenhall and Whittingham. Thereafter, whoever is running the offense can be their new BFF.

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