PROVO — The day I got my Heisman Trophy ballot, BYU sacked its only Heisman Trophy winner, offensive coordinator Ty Detmer.
That is a sad day in my book.
Detmer is the scapegoat for a four-win season and an offense that struggled all season long. He had a perfect storm — tough schedule, personnel issues, injuries and shifting QBs. But like most all college and NFL programs, when there is a historic failure, somebody has to pay. In this case, it was the classiest, most honorable, humble, top-of-the-chart human being I know.
Feedback has been swift and poignant. One QB alum said, “What Mormon offensive coordinator will want to go to BYU when they just canned their Heisman winner?”
Actually, the official release said Detmer was relieved from duties as offensive coordinator and remains under contract. A new coordinator will choose his own staff. Detmer could still be part of it, awkward as that may be. But in a game known for its egos, if there is a man walking this earth that could handle it, it is Detmer. No question.
That new guy will basically have the same material to work with, plus some recruits Detmer helped bring in. He remains the best contact the school has with uncommitted California QB recruit Tanner McKee and he was a catalyst in BYU signing Jaren Hall, currently on an LDS Church mission.
Detmer knows football. He knows scapegoats are required on the altar of head coaches who are fighting for their jobs. Somebody had to go. Now somebody else has to face Arizona, Wisconsin, Boise State, Washington and Utah on the road and battle Cal at home.
“I never saw that one coming,” said Jaren Hall’s father, Kalin, a former Cougar running back who is close to Detmer. “I thought there would be changes, some new guys, a co-offensive coordinator arrangement, but this one really surprised me to tell you the truth.”
Hall saw his son as a great fit with Ty. “When you send your kids off to college and they are away from you, a coach has the most influence on him. In a quarterback room, there are fewer bodies and more attention given and it came down to the man. Ty is a tremendous human being.”
A week ago, while at a high school tournament at UVU, I saw Kalin and he had high praise for Detmer.
"We were mystified as to how Detmer's knowledge and experience couldn't translate to a more productive offense. There are a lot of moving parts and challenges involved."
Then came Monday's news.
"Jaren has worked with Ty in the past, and I've known Ty,” said Kalin after hearing the news on Monday. He explained why Jaren loved Ty and why he does.
When NFL scouts come to BYU, they flock to Detmer. They’ve known him for decades. Recruits note such things.
“Ultimately, I was very comfortable as a person with Ty because of his character, his resolve and his knowledge. His aptitude as to the position itself. He is second to none. His knowledge, what he’s been through, his experience, the type of roles he’s played in reference to being an aid as a reference to quarterbacks and the NFL and his connections. He has them.
"His understanding the scheme and seeing things on the fly, having that mind of mystery as far as solving puzzles on the football field. It was a no-brainer to make that decision when you coupled that with Kalani (Sitake) and the relationship that existed there.”
BYU experienced historic lows in losing streaks and offensive production the past season. It was inevitable Sitake had to make changes. All coaches have to make these hard decisions to show they are working to fix problems and push forward.
BYU has a very proud tradition and brand. It got bruised in 2017.
Said Hall, “Not in a million years did I see that coming, him being an icon to the university, but shoot, I guess it is a business. I guess anyone is on the list. It’s unfortunate.
“It will be interesting, there are a handful of names out there who could come in. Maybe Ed Lamb could step into that role, I don’t know," Hall continued. "Don’t count out Aaron Roderick, despite what everyone thinks, because he’s a solid offensive mind with experience. He’s been in the Pac-12 fire before and been in the heat and he played under a similar philosophy with Kyle as I think Sitake has, taking the air out of the clock because he doesn’t want the ball on the ground.
“Say what you want, but there aren’t a lot of guys out there — proven guys out there. And that schedule is going to be rough, real rough. People don’t want to come in and face that kind of challenge and take a resume hit.”
So, Monday it came. Folks expected something. Sitake promised something would go down. It did.
In BYU’s modern era, it’s been Gary Crowton, Robert Anae, Brandon Doman, Anae II and now Detmer. I remember in the pre-internet days, the letters and phone calls were about placing blame on Norm Chow.
The school is running out of goats.