You say all the right things. You stick with your guys and your staff and you honor the hard work it took to get here. You know it’s the biggest rivalry your school has, this “Holy War” that happens to also be a bowl game this year. But it’s not really your school anymore. You’re coaching this one last game and then heading to the University of Virginia, trading in your Cougars for the Cavaliers of Charlottesville. And as soon as this game’s over you begin a coaching gig on the East coast that’ll pay you $17 million over the next five years. That’s the (enviable and difficult) position of Bronco Mendenhall, as his Latter Day Saints association reaches its latter days. Mendenhall’s a pro, so he cares. But does he care as much as coach Kyle Whittingham on the Utah sideline, who may even want the BYU job? (Whittingham and Mendenhall both took over their respective programs in 2005.)
Impossible. Ever give your two weeks notice? Doesn’t that lunch hour seem immediately longer, that report less pressing, that meeting less mandatory? Bronco Mendenhall is, besides being a first-rate football coach, a human being subject to the emotions the rest of us have. He’s been at BYU for eleven years; his loyalty and passion for the program can’t be questioned. He surely wants to go out on a win, no doubt. Winner: Las Vegas Bowl will fit nicely on his already excellent resume. And Mendenhall can stamp his name deeper into Utah’s collective memory with a parting Holy War win. But even that triumph will only make him 4-6 against rival Whittingham. Mendenhall the immensely disciplined head coach will be 100% committed to BYU’s success in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday. But Mendenhall the human being will at the same time acknowledge he’s moved on.
[Las Vegas Bowl 3:30 ET Saturday December 19, ABC]