So, has the furor over Utah State's Riley Nelson's transfer to BYU died down yet?
Well, it is summer and the Utah Jazz are out of the playoffs, and this one is ripe for a self-munching power feed this week.
The interesting part of the debate is the statement floating around that, once upon a time, Bronco Mendenhall declared he would not recruit LDS missionaries while they are serving.
If he indeed said that, he is a fool. He ought to retract it.
I can't find that Mendenhall mystery quote on file. I've been to nearly every Mendenhall practice and press conference and had plenty of one-on-one interviews and I can't find the policy statement where he made such an edict one which now has many people labeling him a hypocrite.
Where is it? If I find it, he should certainly be held accountable for it.
The closest thing I remember came more than two years ago, when current wide receiver Austin Collie was serving a mission in Argentina. According to his father, Scott, at the time, Elder Collie was being recruited or contacted by several Division I schools, including Oregon of the Pac-10, where former BYU coach Gary Crowton had become the offensive coordinator.
At the time, I asked Mendenhall in a group setting if he felt he needed to recruit Collie all over again. His response was that he kept in touch with all missionaries on a regular basis and didn't feel the need to open up a discussion or make presentations to sell BYU to Collie. Asked about recruiting athletes who are on missions, Mendenhall said he'd be careful about such maneuvers, that he'd step lightly and only if the athlete's family insisted there was interest.
This has been the case in situations like Vanderbilt's Tom Sorensen, ASU's Max Hall, Louisville's Brandon Bradley, or even Ute commit Jan Jorgensen, who never enrolled at Utah out of high school but decided while on his mission to come to BYU after Ron McBride was fired.
Anyway, back to the so-called edict. Mendenhall should have a policy of responding to any inquiry from any prospect who just left a school and is interested in transferring to BYU after a mission.
It doesn't mean he calls them in Australia. Or sends him one of his fancy DVDs, media guides, or tries to enlist the help of a mission president to "press" the issue. That would be dumb. He knows it.
But refusing to respond to an LDS athlete's interest in BYU through interested third parties, while that person is on a mission trying to decide his future? That would be stupid not to accommodate them.
If Mendenhall had this so-called policy we can't find, how would he answer such inquiries about scholarships?
A. No, Elder Smith, I can't answer you until you get off the plane from Fiji.
B. Yes, I'll send Cosmo right over to Ecuador.
C. Let's quickly give you a yes or no as a courtesy so you can get back to tracting for 12 months.
It's a no-brainer.
A distraction? Perfumed letters to missionaries are more disruptive. The scent doesn't dissipate for months, if at all.
Mendenhall has 37 of his own recruits on missions. They are all poachable by other college recruiters.
Refusing to give a missionary parent or high school coach feedback on an "interest" request? If he failed to do that, he'd flunk Coaching 101.
Mendenhall, just like Utah's Kyle Whittingham and any other college coach, needs to have a mechanism to respond to a transfer inquiry by an LDS athlete after the mandated 12-month departure period.
They can't say, "Uuh, sorry, Elder Smith, no comment."
Nothing dirty about dishing out a thumbs up or thumbs down, as in the case of Nelson. It's called responding.
It's been going on for ages. BYU's program has lost similar cases like the famous Ben Olson (to UCLA) case, plus Brock Stratton (to Texas Tech) and Jordan Hill (to Arizona State). And there are currently missionaries tied to Pac-10 schools and others in the region whose families are currently petitioning Mendenhall to gauge his interest.
If Mendenhall doesn't respond to a request by an LDS athlete, he's conducting malpractice. It's a request from the deepest well he'll ever find for his program.
It was no secret when Hall left ASU after his redshirt freshman season as a scout player that he was not coming back. The word around Mesa, Ariz., as he headed on his mission, was that he'd end up at BYU. He did.
Again, it was absolutely no secret around high school and college circles, when Nelson left Utah State for Spain, that he might end up at BYU someday. I heard such predictions late last fall from a high school coach while dining with friends at Wallabys in Lindon.
Apparently, if we're supposed to believe published "time lines" (because this is analogous to the JFK assassination), an exchange of interest and commitment took place between BYU's football staff and Elder Nelson after he had been on his mission the NCAA-mandated 12 months.
As we speak, there are dozens of families of missionaries contacting coaches like Mendenhall, asking about interest in their sons playing football when their church service ends. There is a running back who signed with UNLV, Malosi Te'o, who had family members "investigate" whether there is mutual interest in their son and BYU because he never enrolled before his mission. Well, BYU offered him, although he is still a missionary in New York. Te'o is undecided as of yet.
Imagine, a kid in America, trying to find out his options in a free country, centuries removed from serfdom and earls of old England.
If Mendenhall had this alleged policy about not resolving these requests from missionaries, surely he must have done so after taking a hard fall off one of his horses.
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