Discover Card is currently running some clever ads where a person phones in only to find he's talking to another version of himself. In one, a hard-nosed investigator calls about his payment only to be greeted by his own brand of tough questions on the other end on the line. The spots close with the idea that “we treat you the way you’d treat you.”
Bronco Mendenhall and BYU are currently in some kind of negotiation. Perhaps they are actively negotiating. Perhaps they are negotiating by not actively talking. Athletic Director Tom Holmoe recently told reporters, “He's done a really good job for us and we're working on a contract to extend."
There are some good arguments to give coach Mendenhall a new contract. His total winning percentage of 72 percent is nearly identical to BYU legend LaVell Edwards. His defense is outstanding and fun to watch. He goes to and wins bowl games. Those stats were all tweeted Wednesday by ESPN reporter Joe Schad, who added on ESPNU that he had spoken to a source about the negotiations and according to that source, “BYU has not moved the ball along in its court to make a deal that keeps the coach where he seems to be an ideal fit.”
It doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination that either coach Mendenhall or his agent are pushing for those facts to be reported by ESPN to help bolster their leverage in the current negotiation.
It’s understandable that Mendenhall feels he deserves a new contract. My question is, if Bronco Mendenhall was somehow negotiating with another version of himself, what kind of offer would he get?
If there was somehow another version of Bronco Mendenhall negotiating with BYU’s head coach, would he hand over a new five-year deal and say, “Good luck,” or would he share some stories he learned while training horses and say, "Let's see what you can do with the opportunity"?
If coach Mendenhall was negotiating with himself, would he point out that the contract’s short term is a problem of his own making? Mendenhall directed that contract he signed in 2010 or 2011 was a relatively short deal. He said at the time he intentionally signed a shorter-term contract because he wanted to make sure he earned the position as head coach.
"Would I have signed him to a five-year contract?" Holmoe said in 2011. "Sure, if the terms were right.” Also at that time, Mendenhall said, “How can you sign a 10-year deal? How does any of us know where they are going to be 10 years from now? So, just in fairness, three seemed three years in coaching, that's like dog years, kind of. Three years in a coaching life is like 21.”
Would coach Mendenahll tell himself, "Hey, you wanted to earn it. Here's your chance"?
If coach Mendenhall were negotiating with himself, would he point out that he requires his players to work through their redshirt years without guarantees? NCAA rules say that athletes have five calendar years to play four seasons. The one year players are enrolled but do not play is called a redshirt. Usually coaches and players decide at the beginning of the year that students won’t play that year.
BYU does things differently. Rather than deciding at the beginning of the year, players are told they won’t play in August, but then have to keep working throughout the year to be sure that their redshirt is earned. Should players not work sufficiently hard enough, they may find at the end of the year that the year they took off counts against one of their four seasons they can compete.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported this change was made to set the proper tone. It quoted Mendenhall as saying, “I think it prepares them more for the real world, where you can't really take a year off and just be in an organization or on a team and [expect] it to be paid for.”
If coach Mendenhall feels those kinds of principles are important in order to maximize motivation for his players, how would administrator Mendenhall use them when offering a contract to a coach?
If Mendenhall were negotiating with himself, would he point out that, yes, his total winning percentage is 72 percent, but the last three years it’s been 64 percent. Would he point out that while the defense was truly elite, one national writer called the 2012 season “one big pile of frustration.” Would he say that it’s a little awkward to give a raise or promotion to the person who just fired his entire offensive staff?
If Mendenhall were negotiating with himself, would he give himself a raise, or would he ask that perhaps he consider reapplying for his own position, as he reportedly did to the offensive staff after the 2010 season, leading Robert Anae to leave for Arizona before returning in 2013.
If Mendenhall were negotiating with himself, how would he feel about the reported interviews taken by Colorado and UCLA? Some high school players have reportedly said taking trips to other schools after committing to BYU complicated recruiting with BYU.
All that said, I must add that I’ve often enjoyed watching Mendenhall’s team and support his efforts as head coach. I wrote last year, asking if Mendenhall is over or underrated, that “fans will sound somewhat ridiculous if they (someday) have to say, ‘Coach, we knew you got your team ranked 12, 14, 15, 21 and 25, but we never thought you'd make top 10.’ ”
I hope to see Mendenhall coaching at BYU for a long time. His tactics and principle-based leadership have led to success in many areas. In a regular college football situation, Mendenhall would probably have an extension already, but like so many things at BYU, it’s not a regular college football situation.
The person actually negotiating with Mendenhall, Tom Holmoe, said, “It will get done when it gets done. To put a timeline on it, that is not right.”
Greg Welch, a contributor on CougarBoard.com, has followed BYU sports from six different states and currently cheers from Iowa. Professionally, he works at an ad agency and can be found at @ArtDirectorBYU on Twitter.