PROVO — Since Bronco Mendenhall became BYU's head coach in December of 2004, many have wondered how long he would remain at the helm.
Last January, after his first six seasons, he quietly signed a three-year contract extension. Then last fall, he guided the Cougars through their first year of independence.
But in recent weeks, Mendenhall seriously considered leaving BYU for a different job.
Mendenhall revealed Wednesday during a 45-minute question-and-answer session with reporters that after the 2011 season he received an offer to be the head coach at a Football Bowl Subdivision program, but decided to turn down the offer and stay at BYU.
"We (Mendenhall and his wife, Holly) hadn't really pursued any other places nor did we this year. But we had a very sincere and distinct chance to leave, and chose not to," Mendenhall said. "That in and of itself reiterated to me the excitement I had to be here (at BYU). It was really a choice to stay and a choice to leave, which was an invigorating process to add momentum to our existing program."
Mendenhall did not name the school that offered him the job. In December, Deseret News columnist Dick Harmon reported that Mendenhall had removed his name from the coaching search at UCLA.
In seven seasons at BYU, Mendenhall has posted a 66-24 record, including 10 or more victories in five of the last six seasons. He has two years remaining on his contract.
"I'm excited and really motivated to continue to grow our program with the two years that I have," he said Wednesday. "After that, I will re-evaluate again. But I don't ever see agreeing to 10 or 12 (years) or something like that. The next one, if we choose to stay at that point, will be probably three (years). I think it's better for everyone."
BYU finished with a 10-3 record in its first year as an independent. Mendenhall, who turns 46 next month, said that he "really enjoyed this year in terms of a liberation and a new sense of energy of taking on different challenges and things we hadn't done the previous six years. I liked it ... I'm enjoying (coaching) more now than I've ever enjoyed it."
The Cougars will have 29 seniors on the roster next season — which opens on Sept. 1 at home against Washington State — plus a lot of experienced juniors. "I like our chances in 2012," he said.
Mendenhall's predecessor, Gary Crowton, led BYU's program for four seasons. Crowton replaced the legendary LaVell Edwards, who was the Cougars' head coach for 29 years.
"When I became the coach at BYU, I wasn't sure I'd be here seven years. Seven years is a long time," Mendenhall said.
After the 2010 season, Mendenhall's contract expired. In what he called a "defining moment" for both his family and BYU's program one year ago, Mendenhall and his wife met with athletic director Tom Holmoe and advancement vice president Kevin Worthen.
"I'm not sure they thought when I came in to visit with them with Holly what we were going to say," he recalled. "It was contract renewal time. We said we would like to stay and there was kind of a visible sigh of relief. But I really think they might have thought that I had had enough."
BYU wanted Mendenhall to sign a five-year deal, but he was comfortable with a three-year pact.
"In being fair to the institution and simply in trying to be realistic, to sign a five-year agreement, man, five is a long time," he said. "And those that sign five-year agreements don't honor them anyway, it seems like. They leave for someplace else or the school fires them. Not that I think that either one of those would happen here. But I don't want to sign an agreement and then not fulfill it. It seemed like three years was reasonable, in terms of growing the program through independence and being completely committed and devoted to this place and having the university continue to keep evaluating if I'm the one that they would like to see leading the program."
Will BYU be his last coaching job?
"I don't know," Mendenhall answered. "Not sure."
Would he be interested in coaching elsewhere?
"It's pretty intriguing because the nation at large would ask that same question and would never consider me leaving here," Mendenhall said. "The No. 1 question is, would I? I'm talking about any interest. My first question to them is, 'Why would I? And what do you have that you're looking for that would be very distinct and different?' If they're not interested in that, I'm not a good fit. But there are some places that are very distinct. I'm not saying these are the places, but if you were to say Army or Navy or Air Force or one of the academies or a strong academic institution, there has to be something else besides football. Otherwise, I wouldn't be interested. I think everyone understands that."
Reynolds to play Shrine Game
BYU senior offensive tackle Matt Reynolds has accepted an invitation to play in the 87th East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 21 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., kicking off at 2 p.m. MST and televised live on the NFL Network. Reynolds started every game for BYU during his four-year career, equaling the program record for the most starts with 52.
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