A firestorm over BYU football jerseys is over, at least according to coach Bronco Mendenhall and his team. They say they have bigger fish to fry, like playing their most difficult schedule in recent history.
Still, they had a good laugh about it after the team’s scrimmage Saturday.
“If any of you are interested in more Twitter followers, it’s a good strategy,” Mendenhall said, joking with reporters after scrimmage. “You can boost yourself by a thousand in like 20 minutes or so. So I appreciate your efforts in helping me on that.”
Word broke Thursday that players would be wearing the words “Tradition,” “Spirit” or “Honor” for the 2013 season when players were seen after practice sporting the new-look jerseys. However, the decision caused a major backlash on social media, and some players themselves admitted it would take some getting used to.
As it turns out, the fiasco came about largely because Mendenhall put the plan in motion with the team’s equipment managers earlier in the summer and then got busy, forgetting to vet the plan with athletic director Tom Holmoe.
Then, after the uniforms went public last last week, Mendenhall said, he got “back to my office to see a voicemail blinking from the athletic director.”
“You know how you might get your wife something for your anniversary and you think you’ve done a great job and you can’t wait for her to open it and then you get that look like that wasn’t such a good choice? That was kind of the way I was feeling at that point,” Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall called a team meeting and asked players how they felt.
“I asked who wanted (tradition, spirit, honor) on their jerseys and nobody’s hand went up,” Mendenhall said. “I asked who wanted (last names) and everybody’s went up.”
Then, Mendenhall said, star senior linebacker Kyle Van Noy spoke up and proposed the Cougars wear the special jerseys for homecoming on Oct. 12 against Georgia Tech, something the coach admits was a relief to him.
“I don’t know if it was a concession but it made me feel better,” Mendenhall said.
Van Noy, though, wasn’t happy with fans who he thought were out of place by criticizing the coach while “hiding behind their keyboard.”
“People were kind of blowing it out of proportion. … It was ridiculous. It even made it onto (ESPN talk show) PTI,” Van Noy said.
Still, Van Noy said, the team came closer together after “getting an explanation.” He said the school is equipped to handle publicity.
“It’s still exposure and attention to us and we don’t mind that,” he said.
USA Today, NFL.com, Fox Sports and ESPN all gave coverage of the quick turn of events.