Had it been Notre Dame’s Lou Holtz picking the words, the jerseys may have read: Ability, Motivation and Attitude — three words he thought were most important.
Brigham Young University’s head football coach Bronco Mendenhall’s motivators are, famously, Spirit, Honor and Tradition — in case you haven't seen the Web page, signage or the billboards.
Heck, try to not notice them at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
But don’t look on the back of the BYU football team jerseys.
On Thursday, Aug. 8, Mendenhall announced a change in uniform — nothing as drastic as the bib of 1999 (now, there was something to tweet about), or the black on black of last year's Oregon game.
On the back of the new jerseys — in place of player names — were sewn, printed or ironed-on the words with which BYU football has come to be associated.
Sounds like classic football stuff. Sounds like a coach who has always pushed football as a team sport. Sounds like a tempest in a bunch of tweets.
“I think (the uniform change) reflects consistency; it’s been on our stadium and it’s been, really, at the core of everything that we’ve done,” Mendenhall told KSL's Greg Wrubell.
“My point," he said, still tweeting, "is simply to identify that we’re going to be very consistent; this is what the program represents, and if anyone was wondering if we’re going away from that, just look at the back of the jerseys — your answer is right there,” the coach said before news of the jerseys hit the national fan base.
Wrubell, quoting Mendenhall, later tweeted for himself: “I haven’t told (players), or anyone else” about the change; "I haven’t addressed it yet be interesting to see what they think.”
Not much, as it turned out. Players and fans were taken by surprise at the announcement, and the reaction was as mixed as you would expect.
Former Cougar offensive lineman Terence Brown was one of the many in support of jersey status quo. Brown tweeted:
Spirit, Tradition, Honor on the back of jerseys instead of names. Come on. Bronco tried that a few years ago and the players voted NO— Terence Brown (@terence60) August 8, 2013
Another former player, Jake Kuresa, currently of the Utah Blaze, tweeted:
I took pride in having T. Brown on the back of a BYU jersey. It was an honor!— Terence Brown (@terence60) August 8, 2013
Uniform changes are hardly unheard of in the NCAA or in football in general. Vintage throwbacks are rampant, including BYU’s own return to royal blue for a game or two in the 2012 season. Several other programs, such as Air Force, made changes by wearing references to the B-2 and F-22 stealth planes, forgoing player names in their tussle against Navy just last year.
Kuresa, however, may have hit the nail on the head as far as team members' concerns. Players want recognition. They actually need their own personal marketing to make it to and through the draft. "Let's invite to our camp that guy, ol' what's-his-name from BYU.
Not gonna happen.
As an actor wants his name on the credits or an author wants the byline, players want to get credit, to stand out, especially — understandably — when the cameras roll. You can't blame them for trying to keep their name handy.
Coaches, on the other hand, live, breathe and preach unity and teamwork over individual performance. "There is no 'I' in team" they remind us. "If we get there, we will get there as a team," they say.
You can't blame a coach for trying, either. They have a job to do.
After a quick meeting with those involved, Mendenhall said on Twitter:
Talked to my team tonite. They want to wear tradition spirit honor on jerseys for homecoming only. Last names for rest of the year. PERFECT!— Coach Mendenhall (@BYU_Football) August 9, 2013
It was a decent compromise for a coach with team on the brain. Players will get the recognition for themselves and, hopefully, they got a lesson in "team."
Spirit, Honor and Tradition will be on the back of jerseys in the Cougars' Oct. 12 Homecoming game against Georgia Tech.
And, according to coach Mendenhall, those words will be reflected in the attitude of players on the field and fans in the stands for every other game played this season.
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