BYU football: Mendenhall hears players, will have names on uniforms

Cougars will wear 'Tradition,' 'Spirit,' 'Honor' on back of jerseys for Homecoming game only

Published: Thursday, Aug. 8 2013 6:40 p.m. MDT

Taysom Hill, Ross Apo and Cody Hoffman, left to right, show new uniforms during BYU media day Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, in Provo.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

PROVO — BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall unwittingly caused a big distraction for his team Thursday during the program's annual media day by telling the media that his players would be wearing one of three words, "Spirit," "Tradition" or "Honor" — rather than their last names — on the backs of their jerseys this season.

His players were less-than-thrilled with that move.

But by early Thursday night, after discussing the controversial decision with his players, Mendenhall decided to reverse course. He sent this message via Twitter:

So the "Spirit, Tradition, Honor" jerseys will be on display for just one game — the homecoming contest against Georgia Tech on Oct. 12.

After photo day, as part of team meetings, Mendenhall listened to his players' concerns, and a compromise was reached.

Since taking the reins of BYU's football program in 2005, Mendenhall has stamped the “Tradition, Spirit, Honor” motto all over the program.

Up until Thursday evening, Mendenhall had decided to take that a step further, as those three words, the three pillars of the program, were set to be even more ubiquitous — on the backs of his players' jerseys.

Cougar players were on the receiving end of a huge surprise Thursday when they showed up for photo day festivities. Instead of sporting the players’ last names on the backs of their uniforms — which has been the tradition at BYU — each jersey had either "Tradition," "Spirit" or "Honor" sewn on the back.

It was Mendenhall's decision, and he didn’t announce the change to his players beforehand.

“I haven’t told them or anyone else. I haven’t addressed it yet,” the coach said Thursday afternoon. “It will be interesting to see what they think.”

So how did his players react? Several expressed equal parts shock, support and disappointment.

“It caught us off-guard,” said senior defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna. “It’s up to (Mendenhall). I think it’s a good idea for us to be unified, and when people see us on TV to see what we represent. That was the main idea. With that in mind, it’s a good idea. If everyone knows the purpose behind this, I think they’ll understand. Right now, I think the players are just mad that they don’t have their names on the back of the jerseys.”

“It just surprised everybody. It’s such a unique thing,” said senior wide receiver Cody Hoffman. “You don’t see other programs, what they live by, on the back of their jerseys. It’s unique and different.”

Mendenhall had said Thursday afternoon his team would wear the "Tradition, Spirit, Honor" jerseys “as long as I’m the coach here. That’s what we’ll emphasize. I think it reflects consistency. It’s been on our stadium. It’s been at the core of everything that we’ve done. My point is simply to identify that we’re going to be very consistent. This is what the program represents. If anybody was wondering if we were going away from that, just look at the back of the jerseys and your answer is right there.”

Mendenhall explained that "Tradition, Spirit, Honor" should be synonymous with BYU football.

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