Brandon Ogletree: Bronco Mendenhall really is how Jeff Benedict's book portrays him
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
At one time in the not-so-distant past, the word “scandal” carried meaning, especially when used to allege the activity of prestigious academic institutions and their athletic programs. That word piqued interest, turned heads, made ears perk up and sold newspapers. It was uncommon enough that it actually made waves.
In 2013 — a day and age where technology has enabled unprecedented transparency — the word “scandal” has simply become synonymous with big-time athletics, especially football.
To the college football fan, it feels like a different program is implicated each week. It’s to the point that we’ve become desensitized to each new impropriety.
Even the most prestigious academic and athletic institutions are not immune to the trend of corruption: Penn State, Alabama, Miami, USC, Ohio State, Oregon, Texas A&M, Arkansas and many others have all been exposed for illicit behavior.
Whether it’s by turning a blind eye to forbidden transactions, slipping some cash to a needy player or facilitating inappropriate relationships, the motivation to break the rules is easily understood. By not following the rules, programs can more easily attract talent to win football games and thereby make money.
“Whatever it takes to win” is the mantra used to justify infractions. It’s a telling commentary on our society that we value winning a lot more than we value abiding by the rules.
Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian’s new book “THE SYSTEM” — excerpts of which were published by the Deseret News this week — peels back the layers of colligate athletics to reveal what it is that that makes college football tick. It examines in detail several aspects of college football, including the scandals of the BCS era, but also focuses on encouraging aspects of college football, one of which is the coaching philosophy of Bronco Mendenhall as exemplified by his relationship with current BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
Mendenhall is portrayed in stark contrast to his coaching counterparts around the country; he is a unique example of how high moral standards are balanced with football excellence.
While reading Keteyian and Benedict’s work, three attributes stood out to me as characteristics of Mendenhall that separate him from other coaches.
As Benedict’s work points out, Mendenhall should never have become the coach of BYU.
As a friend of recently departed head coach Gary Crowton, Mendenhall couldn’t muster the nerve during his interview with Tom Holmoe to suggest changes that he would make to his friend’s former program. It wasn’t until after a group of players begged Holmoe to hire him that Mendenhall was finally offered the job.
The loyalty that Mendenhall’s players showed in vouching for him has pervaded the culture of BYU football ever since.
In all the interviews I have ever heard Mendenhall do, I have never once heard him throw a player or fellow coach under the bus or blame anyone else other than himself for a poor performance — believe me, there have been plenty of opportunities. To Mendenhall, loyalty to those closest to him is more important than making himself look good.
This was never more evident than during the 2010 season when Mendenhall fired then-defensive coordinator Jaime Hill and took over his position. I don’t think there will ever be a defense that was worked as hard as we were worked after the coaching change was made, but we were desperate for success — and we trusted our coach.
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