BYU honored its past and looked toward the future at its annual media day on June 26 at the BYU Broadcasting Building.
BYU coaches, players, staff and legends were on hand for the event where three major announcements concerning the future of the program were made.
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe eagerly discussed the program and its potential.
“I know that starting the football season there’s about 130 colleges that are playing division one football,” Holmoe said. “Right now, they all think they’re going to win. But I think that the records from the past, the status that we are right now with our coaches and our players, we have a good team. I’m very excited about the future of our program.”
The first big news of the day involved head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s contract. After weeks of silence on the topic, it was announced that he would be staying with BYU through the 2016 football season.
“Bronco Mendenhall, in eight years, has not only continued the tradition but has built upon it,” Holmoe said. With the college football landscape constantly changing with coaching, recruiting and the postseason, he expressed his happiness that Bronco is “still our guy.”
The Cougars finished last year 8-5 and have won four consecutive bowl games under Mendenhall. The team has played in a bowl game eight consecutive seasons and has a 6-2 record in those games. Mendenhall has 74 career wins in his eight seasons at BYU.
A new series scheduled with USC was also announced. BYU will play a three-game series against the Trojans. The first game is in Provo in November 2019, the remaining two in 2021 and 2023 over Thanksgiving weekend. Mendenhall joked about committing kids in middle school to the university and using this series with USC as a recruiting tool.
The third major announcement was that BYU will be returning to San Diego to play in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2015, should they qualify.
BYU’s partnership with ESPN has been beneficial in getting matchups with high-caliber football teams like USC, Michigan, Texas and others.
“One of the things we’re looking for in the future is playing big-time teams,” Holmoe said.
BYU has gained phenomenal visibility because of the partnership with ESPN. The team has played all over the country, and only eight teams have been seen more by a national audience than BYU has.
“ESPN has a vested stake, a vested interest in what we’re doing because of the number of people that watch,” Mendenhall said. “And BYU’s brand is so strong, partly, because we’re winning.”
Last year’s 8-5 record would typically be a good year. But the record was not good enough for him, especially considering the defense was ranked third in total defense behind Alabama and Florida State. So at the end of the season, the entire offensive staff was released and former offensive coordinator, Robert Anae, brought back to his previous role, with a new staff.
The staff is focused solely on the season ahead rather than looking back on previous seasons.
“If you worry about the past, what does the past say? We won a national championship; we can’t live on 1984,” said Guy Holliday, new wide receivers coach. “We’ve got to worry about 2012, 2013.”
“Whatever happened last year is last year,” Holliday continued. “(The) great thing about last year is that it’s gone. We could have won a national championship last year, and it would still be gone.”
The quarterback position is set with Taysom Hill first on the depth chart when fall camp begins. Hill started two games last season and played in four others before he sustained a season-ending knee injury against Utah State. Hill said he is healthy and said if the season started tomorrow he could play.
“Today was probably the hardest and fastest I’ve ran since last October. It felt really good,” Hill said. “I was able to do everything everybody else was doing. I felt fast and quick as I always have.”
The offense, according to the players and coaches, is performing well. They are going hard and fast, as Anae wants them to. They expect to improve on an offense that fell short of expectations set from previous seasons.
“It will be a different running scheme, but the passing scheme is still a ‘BYU passing scheme,'” Hill said. “I expect our offense to be back to where BYU usually is. What everybody expects our offense to be, that’s where I see it going.”
There is great excitement around the BYU football program every off-season. This year is no different, especially as BYU takes on its hardest schedule in years with games against Texas, Utah, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Boise State and others.
The questions about the offensive line, kicking game and how to reload a top-five defense remain. But the coaches and players are very optimistic about BYU’s chances for success this season.