I have been a Brigham Young University football fan since the 1960s. As I young fan, I was a bit intolerant of poor performances on the field by players. As the years have gone by, however, I have realized a couple of important lessons regarding sports in general and my beloved Cougars in particular.
First, I appreciate the effort and complexity of running an organization of any size. Put young men into the equation, and it's more difficult. It requires leadership skills most of us are not qualified for.
Second, I admit that I don't know as much as coaches do. Modern technology avails attendant ability to articulate our emotions behind a pseudonym, often tending to be crass in nature. Perhaps they're more like drive-by shootings than helpful.
In 2004, I worked alongside a good friend who served as head of the selection committee for the Fiesta Bowl, near my home in the Phoenix area. He has been a key player in deciding who would be on the slate of potential teams invited to play in the game. BYU had a real friend in this man. Not a Latter-day Saint, his zeal for the Cougars was the same as it was for Stanford, Notre Dame and the service academies. He admired the caliber of student-athlete that could win with academic and moral code restrictions in place at BYU. He was (and still is) very familiar with BYU and its coaches, as well as its mission as an LDS Church-owned school. He considered these restrictions as true hurdles that warranted extra consideration because America's leaders were going to come from those types of institutions — not the NFL.
In 2004, I will never forget the week of headline allegations coming across the sports pages of America about the sexual misconduct of some BYU football players. "I thought BYU was different, but maybe they aren't," he said at the time. I told him plainly that I did not know the specifics, but I was sure of one thing: the institution would do whatever it took to make the situation right.
At the time Bronco Mendenhall was hired, I wrote him a letter expressing my deepest anxiety regarding the state of affairs of the BYU football program and its representation of the 'Y' in general. I told him then that as an alumnus of the 'Y,' I would rather win less with young men of honor than win championships with young men of low character. Knowing they represent the spirit of the 'Y' and all that it stands for, the headlines of the pre-Bronco era are unacceptable. I want to win as badly as the next guy, but not at the expense of character.
It is fun to debate the 'what ifs' and 'whys' of coaching decisions of every game. But, to realize what Bronco has done in reviving the image and reputation of the institution in the time-frame he has done so is truly amazing. The movement of the whole organization to where it is now? Amazing. Corporate America would love to have this guy at the helm. Good grief, I would love to have him as a politician, but men of principle are rare in that field, too.
As an older Cougar fan and member of the LDS Church, I have no problem with Bronco alluding to scriptural references as he's done in the past. I have taught my own children to liken the scriptures to their situations every chance they get. I was excited to hear his reference to the stripling warriors when he was hired as head coach. I have done so with my sons over the years as they head out the door to go to school. Bronco represents the spirit of the 'Y,' its alumni and myself just right.
I want to let the BYU administration and Bronco know that perhaps the quieter majority appreciate what he has done, and we trust him in advance to do what he believes he needs to get done going forward.
John Lundberg is a Montana native who graduated from BYU in 1977. He lives in Glendale, Ariz.
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