PROVO — Calls for firings, resignations and shakeups in BYU’s football program in mid-October are dumb.
There may be a time to discuss all that junk, but it isn’t now. Not the week BYU will host San Jose State and players and coaches are fighting the undertow to get to the surface for some air.
Yeah, just dunk the lifeguards’ heads under. That’ll work.
Firing somebody today or tomorrow isn’t going to get BYU any closer to breaking a seven-game losing streak when, by most accounts on the record and off, players still believe in their coaches. You have 34 injuries, with 23 players on the two-deep chart having missed games. This team needs great focus, not disruption or an emotional need to punish or blame midstream.
Those moves sometimes work, like with Bronco Mendenhall when he fired Jaime Hill after an October loss at Utah State. But they can also backfire.
This 1-7 start is as rare as anything I’ve seen while covering BYU football through four decades. But so are many of the circumstances. It’s natural so much frustration follows.
I remember in the late '90s when BYU’s offense struggled. Folks wanted offensive coordinator Norm Chow tied to a whipping post. Chow, they said, was an offensive lineman in college, so what could he know about tutoring quarterbacks?
And that was before the era of Twitter, internet message boards and texting on smartphones, where anybody can publish anything instantaneously regardless of filters.
Yeah, well, so many BYU fans are down, disconnecting, disappointed, even angry. It’s totally understandable.
I got a text from a friend today who was on the field in Jack Murphy Stadium the night BYU came back to beat SMU in 1980 in what is now known as the Miracle Bowl. He was a few feet away from LaVell Edwards when players hoisted him in the air.
Obviously, he’s been spending a lot of time on a fan message board. He wrote:
“Things could be worse. Trump could get impeached; North Korea could nuke Hawaii; (LDS) General Authorities could cancel BYU football and you could have a lifetime calling to serve in the nursery at church. Other than that, this is as bad as it could possibly get.”
On “Coordinator’s Corner” Monday on ESPN 960, BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer acknowledged these are tough times; tough at the office and tough in general.
“But at the end of the day, you come home,” he said, “and your daughters still love ya, the wife still loves ya and the dog still wags his tail. The feeling isn’t where it should be around the office and even at home I’m probably not the same person I should be for them.
“But we’re battling, we’re not going to quit. There are people out there who’d probably want to see me resign at this point but those are probably people who quit on their team in high school, or whatever if they played.
“There is no quit in any of the coaches. We’ve all been in these kinds of situations before and we’re going to try and fight our way by coaching and keep trying to build the program and keep going forward. Each week is a new week and we’re always optimistic going in and we won’t change that this week.”
Head coach Kalani Sitake told reporters Monday, “If we’re going to go down, I’m going to be swinging and that’s our mindset going into this week.”
So, what does that mean?
More gambling, being more aggressive, taking more chances.
You can probably expect to see that in more blitzing, more cover zero, closer man coverage on defense, taking more shots downfield and maybe even some uptempo play, depending on the game situation (rested defense) and personnel available.
BYU’s in the thick of it now. It’s uncharted territory. It’s a bunch of guys with their backs to the wall, feeling the weight of all of it everywhere they go.
After months of working out, training, practices, meetings, it is what it is. Can it get better? Who knows.
But the bottom line might just be, even with losses piling up, this group should be given a rope to pull themselves up to find some air.