HONOLULU — For BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, this is a place he likes to go to relax and get away from football.
The Cougars arrived here Wednesday night, and while Mendenhall is focused on Saturday's game against Hawaii, he couldn't help but check out the conditions for one of his favorite pastimes — surfing.
"I checked the surf report and it's supposed to be good. So if I'm not at the game, you'll know what's happened," he joked this week. "When you go to Hawaii, it's a vacation destination. The weather's nice and there's the ocean right there. It's natural, unless you frame it to your team that there are times to focus on playing and times to focus on fun, then having clear delineations in between. The practice model going through the week will set the tone for what we expect on Saturday. That's the best way I know how to handle it. The maturity of the players will come into play. Some will have a harder time than others."
The Cougars practiced hard in Provo before arriving in Honolulu. Mendenhall is allowing his players a chance to take in the sights on Thursday. BYU is scheduled to hold a practice as well.
"I heard there's going to be some waves, so maybe I'll catch some, if I'm allowed to," said tight end Kaneakua Friel, a native of Hawaii. "We'll have some time to go to the beach, but the most important thing is that we're ready to play."
Legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards knows all about the potential pitfalls associated with taking a football team to Hawaii.
"It's a mixed bag going over there," said Edwards, who posted an 11-4 record at Aloha Stadium against the Warriors in his 29 seasons at the helm. "It's a great place to go and a tough place to take a team because there are so many distractions over there. You just have to let the guys enjoy it, then hopefully keep them focused on the ballgame. That becomes the issue."
Senior defensive lineman Simote Vea, who is from Hau'ula, Hawaii, acknowledged that it will be tough for some players to focus on football.
"It's a vacation spot. That's another thing we have to deal with," he said. "I don't think I'll be as distracted because for me, that's home. But I can see how a lot of the team will be excited to be there for the first time, seeing the beaches. Ultimately, we're there to play football."
The Cougars are staying at the luxurious JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort & Spa.
A CHANCE TO COME HOME: BYU will be coming to Honolulu often over the next decade to play Hawaii, a fact that doesn't hurt recruiting efforts.
"If a young man comes here for four seasons, to have the chance to go home twice and see his family see him play, I think that's a big deal," Mendenhall said. "It's also been part the strategic plan you'll see going forward of different destinations we'll play to try to open up recruiting areas through exposure."
NO ON NO. 13: The NCAA grants teams that play in Hawaii an extra regular season game to recoup some of the travel costs. But BYU opted not to play a 13th contest this season, and it's not because Mendenhall is superstitious.
"That part, I'm on the fence with. Thirteen games is a lot," Mendenhall said. "Then to play a 14th as a bowl game, I guess it depends on the financial circumstances of your program. Man, by the time you get to 13, you're about ready to call it good, I think."
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