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Jiminy Cricket's Blog

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Now that most of the whiney babies are gone...

from our board (until the next loss, of course), I will guess that a rational discussion is now possible about the state of the program.

Personally, I am very impressed with Bronco and the program he is building. The players are toeing the line like no time since the early 90's, they are all on the same page, and our talent level is finally starting to approach the level we were at when we were a regular visitor in the Top 25 (we can debate if that is enough now with football catching up to BYU's revolutionary schemes we had under LaVell, but that is another topic).

The only thing to really complain and find fault about, of course, is the record...of course, the record is the 800 pound gorilla.

BYU has even looked good at several times over the past two years, where longtime fans could see some glimpses of the dominant program we once enjoyed. Back then, even if a team was good, we still expected to win, and weren't surprised if we blew them out.

Tulsa was reminiscent of that era.

Unfortunately, the achilles heel of the past two years is BYU's record in games decided by less than a touchdown: 1-5. To make it worse, BYU has not won an overtime game in two years, and most of those close losses came against teams that observers judged to be evenly matched or just a bit better than BYU.

Everyone knows that the way to jumpstart a fanbase is to pull off a big upset or to pull out a win against an evenly matched team in dramatic fashion, and Bronco and company have not been able to do it.

We seem to be just good enough to stay in there with these teams, only to LOSE in dramatic fashion.

So, the simple question is: why?

Many have their own reasons, ranging from John Beck, to the secondary and defense, to Gordo Monson's asinine commentary that BYU is just a bunch of losers (takes one to know one, eh Mr. BYU grad?).

For me, though, I've been watching this closely for the past two years, and I put more of the blame on the offensive coaching staff.

In close games over the past two years, when we have had the ball with a chance to score a big TD and put the game away late, we have only been able to do it once (UNM, 2004 for our only close win). In every other game, when we have had a chance to get the big, game sealing TD, we've settled for a field goal attempt.

Pick the game: Arizona, Boston College, Utah...we had the ball with a chance to win the game on offense, and our offense caved and we settled for field goals. Instead of playing to win, the coaching staff played not to let the offense lose the game--kind of a prevent offense, if you will, and it does what prevent gameplans always do: it prevents you from winning.

Now, a lot of people will point to the offensive players and breath fire and brimstone upon them, but for me, I feel like the offensive coaching staff needs to give the players a chance. I've seen it in several games over the past few years, and when the offense has a chance to grab a team by the jugular and squeeze, they can't do it.

Instead of an off tackle run on 3rd and 1 against BC, why not a play action pass to the tight end going away from the motion? Where are the tendency breaker plays late in the game to surprise a defense and get us in a favorable matchup for a big gain? I saw the Denver Broncos run a reverse on 4th and 1 for big yards last Sunday that led to their winning the game. A crazy call...except that it worked.

I love the ball control, efficient offense that Coach Anae has inserted, but there are times when you have to roll the dice and pull a rabbit out of a hat, and too many times I've seen us pull a 35 yard field goal out of the hat in the 4th quarter of tight ball games. I should mention that I do believe that Coach Anae and company have put together several gameplans that took games that might otherwise have been close, and turned them into easy or methodical wins. Wyoming, Air Force, and Colorado State last year, and Tulsa this year are just a few games that we thought might be close, hard fought games, and instead we really weren't threatened in any of them.

I don't think Coach Twhit is a good head coach, but I'll never claim he isn't a good defensive coach, and we saw that when he pulled a rabbbit out of his hat in overtime on 4th down when he dropped 10 guys against us. He outguessed our offensive coaching staff, and that is why yewtah won overtime.

I don't think that Coach Anae and Reynolds, etc. CAN'T work some magic when necessary late in close ball games, just that they HAVEN'T done it yet. Here is to hoping that they figure it out soon--preferably this season in time to pull off a big win and energize the BYU fans this season and going into next year.

BYU fans: How do you like being treated as a...

rented mule?

Even though we are in the age of motorized transport, you all have heard or at least read about mules, right? A cheaper beast of burden than a horse, that could take more abuse and neglect than a noble stallion, and was usually at the back of the pack train eating the dust of the mounted humans on horseback?

And, of course, the rented ones were treated even worse, because what connection did people have with a dumb animal they didn't even have an investment in?

So, with that in mind, I ask again: BYU fans. How do you like being treated as a rented mule?

If you are like me, I'd say that you all are ticked off...and you have a right to be. The past week has found us in the middle of a struggle titled CSTV versus Dish Network and DirecTV (the "satellite companies"), and instead of being enlisted on the side of CSTV as an ally, we have been treated like a dumb beast of burden--not worthy of courtesy, explanation, or respect--and used merely for our brute strength as a fanbase, and nothing more.

Now, in the midst of this struggle for access on TV to our beloved Cougars, many have pointed their fingers at BYU's athletic department, the Mountain West Conference officials, or other various groups with ties to BYU. These people claim that it was these groups that got us into this mess, so they should be forced to suffer as BYU's fanbase has suffered this past weekend. I'm not going to debate this, because for one, my opinion has already been stated for the record that I believe this to be misguided ( See: http://www.cougarboard.com/noframes/messa ge.html?id=1999862 ); and two, the BYU athletic department and the MWC have to live with us later, and so they realize the value of BYU's fanbase. They realize the price they pay when they treat us badly.

CSTV, on the other hand, has no connection with BYU's fans and they are insulated from our anger, so they have no qualms about treating us as mules because to them that is what we are: a dumb army of beasts of burden, to be used and abused as they'd like in their grasping for whatever golddust they can get their hands on from the satellite companies.

In fact, even if the MWC or BYU's AD WANTED to intervene, they cannot. The TV contract has already been signed, and the MWC and CSTV are at the mercy of CSTV and the mtn. to get distribution agreements in place. If BYU or the MWC tried, CSTV could tell them that it was none of their business what profit margins CSTV is able to get from the content which they already had agreed to pay top dollar for.

So, are CSTV and the satellite companies to blame for the current debacle which is distribution of BYU football television broadcasts? Let's look at the most recent events in the negotiations between CSTV and the satellite companies to get the mtn. on TV.

We don't know anything concrete about actual numbers, because CSTV won't deign to lower themselves enough to give us fans any explanation at all, and because satellite companies and cable providers lie so much that we are left to surmise that they enjoy it more than the truth.

However, even disregarding hard numbers, we do know a few things from the tumultuous past weeks:

*After a confernece call between CSTV and the MWC Athletic Directors this week, BYU's Tom Holmoe and the Univ of Utah's Chris Hill take the unprecedented step of issuing a joint statement asking for their respective fanbases to deluge the satellite companies with calls asking them to add the mtn. . This is on top of several weeks of the MWC already whipping the MWC fanbases into a frenzy to do the same thing. The BYU fanbase, already tired of pleading their case to Bangledeshian customer service reps for several weeks, reacts negatively to this request.

*A source from the mtn. tells a local media member that an agreement has been reached. The next day, it becomes apparent that this is not the case. Some surmise that the satellite companies nixed the agreement in principle the next day with further demands.

*CSTV refuses to stream the BYU-Tulsa game on the internet to try and stoke the flames of anger of the BYU fanbase against the satellite companies.

*It is reported that the satellite companies claim that they don't need to carry the mtn., since the MWC's biggest fanbase will see all the mtn. games on BYUTV on the satellite companies own satellites, anyway. In response, CSTV demands that BYUTV NOT rebroadcast the BYU-Tulsa game on tape delay--even though KBYU used their own resources to produce the game, and it was allowed in the CSTV/MWC TV contract for BYUTV to broadcast the game.

Throughout all of this, CSTV has remained mum, not bothering to EVER direct any explanation towards the fanbases of the MWC, and in particular, BYU.

Instead, CSTV--through the the schools and the conference--has demanded that we as fans continue "dialing for access" in some modern day version of Sisyphus rolling a rock to the top of a hill every day for eternity, with no explanation other than: "It will put pressure on the satellie companies". How much pressure? How close are we to gaining an agreement? How likely are our efforts to accomplish something? All of these questions go unanswered.

Now, in most sports negotiations, the side who thinks they have the best chance of getting sympathetic PR usually will scream their case from the rooftops, in hopes of getting the tide of public opinion to push against their adversary in the negotiations. So, why isn't CSTV doing this to a sympathetic audience of MWC fans? It certainly isn't out of a sense of honor, because they have shown none in how they have treated us as fans.

No, the silence of CSTV and the satellite companies is enough to make MWC fans wonder that if their positions became known, that BYU and other MWC fanbases wouldn't be sympathetic to either of their positions. That if the truth were known, CSTV AND the satellite companies would be revealed as lying, sleazy, money-grubbing entities content to use and abuse whoever they can in their thirst for 3 more cents per subscriber.

What has really enflamed the BYU fanbase, however, isn't the thirst for wealth on the part of CSTV or the satellite companies, but their willingness to abuse us over the BYU-Tulsa game in some executive-level pissing contest.

There was no reason to not broadcast the BYU-Tulsa game on CSTV's all access internet streaming except that CSTV wanted to tick off BYU fans in hopes we'd scream at the satellite companies all the louder.

There was no reason for CSTV to demand that KBYU not broadcast the KBYU produced telecast of BYU-Tulsa, except in a bid to make the satellite campanies eat their words that BYU fans don't need the mtn. to watch BYU. If CSTV actually cared at all about BYU and their fans, all they would have had to do is ask the satellite companies to pay close attention to the ratings for BYUTV's broadcast.

Instead of this, though, CSTV beat us like the mules they think we are, in hopes that our anger would once again be directed at the satellite companies. And, in pouring salt into BYU fan's wounds, CSTV virtually ignored the BYU-Tulsa game throughout the day, refusing even to show highlights on the CSTV college football show.

Speaking for myself, I don't like being so blatantly manipulated. I refuse to be treated like a beast of burden by CSTV any longer. If they want my help, then they can treat me and the rest of the BYU fanbase with respect and with courtesy. They can explain what they are trying to obtain, what their best guess timetable is, and why and how they'd like my help. The same goes for the satellite companies.

Until they do this, I refuse to spend one more minute dialing the satellite comapnies on behalf of CSTV. I may dial CSTV, though, and tell them what I think of them. And, lest the satellite companies think they have won, I have requested that my five year subscription to one of the satellite companies be cancelled effective next Saturday if an agreement isn't in place. It is time to remind CSTV and the satellite companies that the BYU fanbase is worthy of respect and is not something to be treated with disdain.

Some facts from a MWC official about The mtn.

I contacted Javan Hedlund (Associate Director of Communications of the Mountain West Conference), this week to get some clarification on a few questions about the mtn which have come up with regularity this week:

Why did the MWC go with CSTV? What does this mean to BYU and other schools in the conference?

Will BYU fans outside of Utah be able to watch BYU? And, as a corollary to this question, what are the options for BYU fans to watch BYU if they live in another MWC region, and that region's team has a game which overlaps with BYU's?

Mr. Hedlund was gracious enough to respond, even with the hundreds of other emails he must be getting this week in addition to his other responsibilities.

I told him that I would try and distribute this post to as many BYU fans as possible to try and get the real story out (and to try and cut down on his workload of answering so many emails), so please feel free to link or cut and paste this post in emails or posts on other message boards throughout the conference. If you'd note that this came from Jiminy Cricket of www.Cougarboard.com whereever you post it, that should cut down on people contacting Mr. Hedlund to try and confirm it is legitimate (I would be happy to correspond to anyone who doubts the veracity of this post, so please don't bug Mr. Hedlund about confirming my post--I am trying to lessen his workload, not add to it ). Mr. Hedlund confirmed a lot of facts, but the analysis is strictly mine, so any mistakes in this post are no fault of his.

It is good to remember that staying on ESPN would have likely meant the death of the MWC as a viable Division 1A league.

The MWC didn't leave ESPN because they wanted to be visionary. They left because there was nothing for the MWC at ESPN anymore.

Our old TV contract was quite good (thanks to the negotiations of Rondo Fehlberg, BYU's ex-Athletic Director) with good money, good TV slots, and a place of respect in the ESPN lineup. (According to the Daily Herald, the Mountain West Conference was making about $7 million/yr under our old contract, and we all remember the premium Thursday evening time slots and coveted Saturday timeslots on ESPN and ESPN2).

The new contract ESPN was offering, however, had none of those things. The WAC signed a TV contract with ESPN last year, and do you know what they are making? Around $1 million per year...for the entire league. Does anyone really think that ESPN would value us 6x more than the WAC, especially when they already have 4 other major conferences in their stable?

The Thursday night timeslots on ESPN? Gone to the ACC. The coveted Saturday timeslots on ESPN/ESPN2? Gone to the Big 10 and others. Our timeslots for football--instead of the old days when we were on in primetime and at noon on Saturday--would have been 10AM or 8-9PM. Basketball would still have had been relegated to the junky Big Monday timeslot of 10PM.

In addition, we were already being pushed down to ESPN+, ESPNU, and ESPN Classic under the old contract...does anyone think our TV options would have improved?

ESPN thought they had us over a barrel, and were planning on using the MWC as a schedule filler on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and using us to bring value to their lower value channels like ESPN Classic and ESPNU.

Our conference went into negotiations with ESPN in good faith, and came out of those meetings with a figuritive slap in the face: much less money, worse timeslots, awful midweek games with fewer broadcasts overall, and much less exposure for the MWC. In effect, ESPN told the MWC to lick their boots, and then asked for a thank you for the privilege.

So, it was into this dire situation that our White Knight, CSTV, came.

Dave Checketts, CEO of Sportswest, partnered with Brian Bedol, founder of ESPN Classic, to create CSTV to not only save BYU and the MWC, but also to do it in a revolutionary way (Checketts has since sold his interest in the network, while Bedol continues as CEO of CSTV after they were bought by CBS).

The new deal with CSTV provides football games on OLN, CSTV and The mtn., along with video streaming of almost all sports (golf, swimming and track excepted, which would be very difficult to stream). The mtn. will also provide television opportunities for sports like soccer, volleyball, baseball and softball (a huge boon for recruiting in those sports). In all, the CSTV-affiliated networks will broadcast more than 200 non-revenue sports events, 36 football games, and 150 men's and women's basketball games (numbers from The Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin) .

In addition to greatly improved exposure for the league's entire athletic offerings, thanks to CSTV we also increased our rights fees around 50%. Instead of $7 million per year, we now have a 7 year/$82 million dollar contract (from the Casper Star-Tribune); and, thanks to this, we will remain a viable Division 1A league. CSTV/The.mtn was a lifeline, and we owe CSTV a debt of gratitude.

But what about watching BYU, you say? Glad you asked.

According to Mr. Hedlund, "The deal signed yesterday provides cable subscribers with Comcast to get both CSTV and The mtn. this coming fall. It does not mean that CSTV and The mtn. will only be on Comcast. The expectation of the league is that both networks will be available on several cable operators, including Cox, Time Warner, Charter, Cable One, etc., by Sept. 1.

"The conference also expects CSTV and The mtn. to be available on both Dish and DirecTV by Sept. 1." Mr. Hedlund also noted that he personally is a DirecTV subscriber, and he has taken no steps to change.

Of particular concern to BYU fans, who inhabit all of the MWC markets (in addition to being in non-MWC regions), I asked Mr. Hedlund what were the chances of BYU fans in non-Utah markets being able to watch BYU football this fall--particularly when that region's team has a game which overlaps with BYU's. In other words, if a BYU fan in San Diego wants to watch BYU at noon, but SDSU also has a game on at that time, what does that mean?

His answer was as follows:

"There is a possibility for a pay-per-view package like ESPN GamePlan. Since the new deal with Comcast just came down yesterday, those deals are in the works.

"The mtn. will be similar to the NFL on Sundays. Fans in Salt Lake will see Utah or BYU, while those in San Diego will see SDSU and in Albuquerque they will see New Mexico. Comcast will also have the opportunity to show the local game on the mtn., while placing the overlapping game on another public access channel (ie, channel 6 here in Colorado Springs). Therefore, both games would be shown in a market."

My guess is that it is with issues like this where the partnership with Comcast will pay particular dividends, as it will be in their best interest to make alternate feeds available.

In conclusion, Mr. Hedlund asked me to communicate to the BYU fanbase that this CSTV/the mtn agreement is much better than anything we could have gotten from ESPN, and that the Conference offices are well aware of the passion which BYU fans have for our athletic teams, and that the best way we can contribute to making this transition a success is to continue emailing our cable providers about carrying the mtn.

Prediction: In 3 years or so, you will hear...

opposing coaches and fans say, "It is no wonder BYU football is successful--look at all of the advantages they have", and they will talk about the mission "advantage", the LDS "advantage", the legacy of LaVell helping BYU to draw highly regarded recruits, and perhaps even the Honor Code "advantage".

You will also hear coaches say that any competent coach could be successful at BYU, and that only an incompetent could louse things up at BYU (inferring that if they were at BYU, they'd be that successful, too).

Why do I say this now? Just to point out that will seem obvious in a few years, is not so obvious now. It takes a coach with vision to change the conventional wisdom, and we have one at BYU.

Because we have a coach who is smart enough to realize that he needed to shift the paradigm, and instead of running from what conventional wisdom called challenges and obstacles, it was possible to turn them into strengths.

Instead of a coaching staff who downplayed the honor code to non-LDS recruits, Bronco and Co. made it front and center as they targeted recruits of high standards. What parents with standards--LDS or not--wouldn't be at least a little intrigued by a sales pitch which included a part about how BYU tries to build adults of character and integrity, and we put that into a written code of conduct that is vigourously monitored?

Instead of being a coaching staff frustrated by the missionary program, why not tap into the fact that they have a team who the majority of its members really know what it means to sacrifice to a cause? Instead of talking about how hard it is to manage missions, why not embrace it and talk about the title of liberty and being stripling warriors?

Of course, there are a lot of smart coaches out there who could also come up with these things, but what is making Bronco successful is that he also has the courage to put these ideas into practice. Not many coaches would have had the courage to go in front the media and read scripture--they'd be scared of the firestorm it would cause in Utah from the yewts and their anti-LDS sympathizers. Bronco, on the other hand, didn't care--and in one swoop, he energized almost the entire BYU fanbase with one press conference.

Another example of his courage is in targeting and closing the deal early with the existing base of football recruits. Other coaches (ahem) would be too scared to do it for fear of opening themselves up to second guessing, but Bronco and company are trusting in their talent evaluation skills, and not wasting time and energy dancing with recruits for months who will commit right away.

Now, many of the people who I predict will be complaining about BYU's "advantages" in a few years are the same yewt fans and scared and disspirited BYU fans who over the last few years have been telling all who will listen in grave tones about the demise of BYU football. They have said that BYU fans should be ready to become a New Mexico or Air Force-esque program who in a good year might win 7 or 8 games, but otherwise will be a middle to bottom of the pack program in a bad conference.

The people who say this are either enemies of the program who hope for the worst for BYU, or they are those who the scriptures call people "without vision". They call themselves "realists", people who are unwilling or unable to see anything happening on the periphery which might be harbingers of things to come.

People like this make good critics, because they are good at seeing and stating the obvious, all the while unwilling or unable to see what good and bad led to the present reality.

So, remember folks. When people say in a few years how anyone could be successful at BYU with our advantages, remember that I told you long ago that not everyone is smart and brave enough to turn weaknesses into strengths, and not everyone is a good enough leader to get the team, the coaching staff, and the fanbase to buy into it.

I don't know how many coaches there are who are able to do these things, but I do know of at least one: Bronco Mendenhall.

Musings about return missionaries picking schools.

As we all know, after 18 months an athlete's Letter of Intent expires, and they become recruitable athletes once again. Since a mission is 24 months long, this expiration date is likely to occur somewhere around the 1 year mark of their missions (depending on when they actually report to their missions).

Speaking only of myself, by the 1 year mark of my mission I was at my most focused point. I knew that college loomed out there and that I would have to apply, but that was a long way off and I didn't want to think about it. Indeed, I didn't want to have to be emotionally involved in anything except my mission.

Even letters home were fun, but I didn't dwell on the news. I was concerned, but I left it up to my family to deal with it, and I tried to go about my work.

Now, imagine you are a blue chip football recruit that even non-draft devotees have heard about. Once that LOI expires, imagine how many letters would start flooding to the mission office. Imagine how many newspaper articles and videos would start arriving at you apartment via UPS. Imagine getting messages on your answering maching from every Division 1 head coach and recruiting coordinator "just wanting to see how you're doing and talk about your future." Imagine your family letters detailing what schools had called, and what they said.

Since as a missionary your future is now, anything that distracts you from the present is a burden. It would be very difficult to remain focused on what you are doing with accomplished, successful people trying to kiss up to you and trying to spoil you. I respect anyone who could go through that and remain a successful missionary.

When I got to the point on my mission when I had to apply for college, I was disturbed that I had to deal with it. I was so in the moment, that filling out a college application seemed an affront. In addition, the last thing I would have done if I was a recruited athlete was comtemplate what school would be likely to go to the best bowl game, or what school was ranked higher in the BCS standings, or how many people were on the depth chart in front of me.

Instead, I had a lot of discussions with fellow missionaries who wanted to transfer TO BYU where they could be among fellow memebers of the church and friends from their missions (or, if they couldn't get into BYU, what the application deadline was for BYU-Idaho (Ricks then) or UVSC). I knew many more return missionaries that transferred TO BYU then AWAY from BYU. After all, after serving your God and your Church for 24 months, it is understandable that many of these people would want to attend their Church's school.

I can't imagine being an RM athlete, and suddenly finding myself a couple months after my mission at Arizona getting dragged along to an after game party, or attending film sessions on Sunday afternoons. Or, going on a recruiting trip a few weeks after my mission, and having my escort tell me about the yewtin' party he had heard about, and how many "friendly" women would be there.

I feel for anyone in that position of having to decide where to play football (or basketball), and I have to believe that after a mission, most athletes would be MORE disposed to going to BYU, rather then less. Indeed, after your mission president tells you that your duty post-mission is to get an education and to prepare for a family, where are you going to find the most likely candidates to start a family with?

Recruiting for 2007: Any way you care to look at..

it, this is a very good recruiting class so far.

I'm not as big a recruiting guy as some on this board, but no matter how you look at it, this class is impressive enough to impress even a casual follower like me. What are some ways to analyze this class?

Highly ranked recruits (stars, offers from other schools)?
Last year at this time, the BYU coaches had gotten several verbal commitments from recruits who later had great senior years, but were not highly sought after when they committed to BYU (two notable exceptions were James Lark and McKay Jacobson). Almost all BYU fans would say it turned out well, with really the only question mark now being Moncur.

This year, in contrast, virtually all of the verbal commits have had offers from other high profile programs and/or lots of praise from at least one internet recruiting service. Munns has drawn multiple stars and rave reviews from one and all, two of our WR recruits have been called "one of the top WRs in the West this year" by different recruiting experts, our JC line recruits have both been offered by more than one high profile BCS school, and our other recruits have some recognition that fans can point to as to why BYU would offer--like State defensive player of the year or State sack leader, or something similar.

Does this notoriety matter? Not really, but it sure lets BYU fans rest more easily when they look at a list of recruits they knew nothing about before they committed.

Solidifying our recruiting base with LDS and Utah kids?
BYU has been all over the highest profile LDS and Utah kids this year. Some of the highest profile players have already committed to the Cougars like Munns and Mathews, while BYU is still in the running for the highest profile Utah recruits like Simi Fili and Houston Cassita.

One improvement which seems to be apparent this year over last is that BYU got a much quicker jump on the best LDS recruits outside of Utah. Of the 9 LDS verbals we have received so far, they hail from places as diverse as California, Washington, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado.

Good message discipline (working the plan)?
In reading TotalBlueSports.com articles on all of our verbal commits, I have been impressed with how consistent some of the comments have been from one recruit to the next. Almost all of them have commented on the uniqueness of the BYU coaches' approach, and they mention how BYU is "the total package" athletically, academically, and how BYU can help them personally.

This strikes me that the message that the coaches are taking with them in their recruiting contacts with players is strategic, and that they are doing a very good job in articulating it to recruits.

Another constant from recruits is how impressed they are with the players on the team--that they all felt welcomed and comfortable, that the team felt like a family, and that they liked the camraderie everyone shared. Mauga, for example, said that in meeting the team, he didn't feel like the players were "sizing him up"--something which appears to be common at other schools.

It appears that all the team building that Bronco constantly harped on last year is paying dividends.

Compared to last year?
According to Brandon Gurney on TBS, it took until September last year to get ten verbal commitments. The BYU coaches have surpassed that total this year by mid-June--before the BYU football camps start. Considering that we got around 4 commits from Camps last year, we may be over halfway done with recruiting before the Summer is over.

Last year the coaches got on the highest priority recruits like Lark and Jacobson quickly. This year, they have done the same, locking up another national QB recruit in Jason Munns, and more national WR recruits in Kessman and Mathews.

At this time last year, the coaches were completely focused on shoring up our recruiting base, and they delivered with several LDS and Utah recruits. This year, they have not only matched that, but they have been able to expand the focus a bit with some non-Utah, non-LDS recruits. The coaches have also been more aggressive in the Junior college ranks early this year than they were last year.

One of the surprises of this year's recruiting has been how quickly the coaches have gotten recruits who knew little about the school to commit after BYU contacted them. Last year, it seeemed our early recruits were lifelong BYU fans, or Utah residents who had had some previous contact with BYU.

This year, by contrast, we got a commitment today from Magnum Mauga who is not from BYU, is not LDS, and knew nothing about BYU until talking to BYU coaches. Jason Munns is another one who said in the first TBS article about him that he didn't know much about BYU, and that he was leaning towards his hometown school (Washington St)--until the coaches were able to showcase BYU to him.

Another surprise so far this year is how the ratio of LDS to non-LDS recruits among early commits has gone down (which makes us all very happy). It was alarming last year to hear the coaches say they could hardly get any non-LDS recruits to even trip to BYU. This year, it appears that the coaches have found the formula to reverse that worrisome trend.

One more "surprise" (this is not really a surprise, but it is a nice fact to note) is how balanced the commits have been by position so far. Every BYU fan remembers how nerve wracking it was to see BYU go down to the wire before they got some JC DB and DL recruits last recruiting season. This year, we have commits from the following position players already:

1 QB
2/3 WR (1 WR recruit may play corner)
2 safeties
2 defensive line (1 JC recruit)
2 offensive line (1 JC recruit)
1 linebacker

So, to reiterate, no matter how you slice it, the BYU staff is putting together an impressive, balanced, and strategic recruiting class this year. It is impressive efforts like these in so many areas over the last year from our staff which has BYU football fans smiling again, and optimistic for the future.

How do we "know" that BYU doesn't pay coaches?

In a recent thread, a Ute fan went to the "you guys don't pay your coaches competitively" line. I likely would have done the same in his situation, so I don't blame him for going with that. Plus, he certainly isn't the first. Our "own" exUte finds great glee in bringing it up every few months himself.

That line is accepted as conventional wisdom by all--BYU fans and rivalry fans alike.

My question is, why? Why is this accepted?

Some of our fans are known for being..ahem...frugal, but does that mean our athletic department is? Perhaps the athletic department likes that reputation, because it helps mollify our fanbase and the "active LDS yewt fan" who love to write letters to the First Presidency whenever BYU "offends" them? Maybe the BYU athletic department has plenty of resources but it likes that fact being under the radar?

I have been following BYU sports very closely since 1996, and there has certainly never been any definitive comment on coaches' salaries that I can remember except that LaVell Edwards was underpaid, and that the Volleyball coach left because he demanded a 6 figure salary and BYU said no.

In fact, the only solid info I've ever seen on athletic budgets would tend to support the opposite conclusion of "cheap". Two or three years ago, we--along with Louisville--were the only non-BCS schools with an athletic budget over $20 million per year.

Still, that doesn't address salaries, so we are left to draw conclusions from anecdotal evidence, and I'd suggest that the anecdotal evidence is more in favor of BYU being competitive in salaries than in their being stingy.

When Gary Crowton was negotiating for the head coaching job, there were a series of negotiations going on between his agent and BYU, but GC took the job after all, didn't he? BYU did what they needed to do to get their guy.

When GC was fired...err...allowed to resign, it was reported that BYU boosters had commitments for enough money to buy out Andy Reid's contract from the Eagles if he wanted to come (at the time, it was reported that he had $16 million left on his contract). Doesn't seem like a move by a penny-pinching, cheap athletic department to me.

When BYU was deluded and thought that Twhit (Whittingham) was the way to go for a head coach, we sent yewtah back to Huntsman enough times to get Utah paying a first time coach $750,000/year. To me, that looks like not only did we have enough resources to be competitive, but we helped weaken our rival by getting them to overpay for their first year head coach.

As far as assistant coaches go, when Gary Crowton wanted to hire Bronco, New Mexico's coach complained that: 1)we were like a BCS school with our resources, and 2)he mentioned a specific figure that (I believe it was in the $100-150K range/yr, but I don't remember for sure), although GC denied in a non-denial denial (Crowton said something like, "how does he know what we pay?" and brushed it off), was certainly not cheap for an assistant.

In the other assistant coaching hires we have made, not only did we get very qualified people, but we pulled an oline coach away from a BCS school (ASU), and we pulled a secondary coach from a professional football team in the CFL. If we were cheap, I would imagine we'd be forced to pull guys from JCs or Division 2 schools who were so desperate to get into Division 1 that they'd work for anything. We have only lost one assistant coach in the last few years to another school (Brian Mitchell), and considering how bad our secondary was last year, did we really "lose" him?

Even going back a few years, when Norm Chow left, he didn't leave for peanuts--he took a salary which made him the highest paid assistant in the nation. Was NC State a bunch of morons paying 3-4 times what Chow was making before, or maybe did they make a huge offer because Chow was already making a good living at BYU?

Utah seems to have the reputation for being generous in salaries, but remember that it was BYU that hired Kufusi away from yewtah, and not the other way around. In fact, Utah has tried to hire Kufusi back at least twice, but he still continues to toil down in Provo. Is he an idiot working for under market value, or perhaps the reality is that his salary isn't that bad, after all?

In a non-football anecdote, Steve Cleveland was interviewed about his first months at Fresno, and he said that he had to be strategic about recruiting to make sure his recruiting budget was used in an effective way. He then said, "...at BYU I had a [recruiting] budget, but I never knew what it was." Does that sound like a cheap athletic department to you?

And, by their fruits shall we know them? Look at facilities. Has BYU ever not provided the necessary facilities for their athletic programs to be competitive? Instead, they have have had such capital outlays over the last few years of:

*Indoor practice facility which has recruits raving

*Student Athlete Center that includes a brand new weight room that has recruits saying it is the best facilities they have seen bar none.

*New sports turf installed in the football practice field with no fanfare and no public fund raising effort. CSU, by comparison, installed the same thing recently, and announced it to great fanfare and did have a public fund raising effort.

*Improvements to LES both ongoing and planned which not only didn't require public fund raising, but they are actually keeping details secret.

*A brand new basketball floor at the Marriott Center with a brand new sound system

*a brand new video system that was reported to cost somewhere around $1 million for sports teams to break down tape.

...and these are just off the top of my head from 800 miles away. Both our track and field and softball teams hosted NCAA regionals this year, and there were no complaints about either facility.

I submit that instead of BYU athletics being cheap, they are, in fact, the class of the MWC, and have the resources to achieve whatever goals they set for themselves--whether it is brand new facilities, or a necessary hire. Perhaps this conventional wisdom of BYU not paying coaches will, from this post, at least be challenged, instead of being accepted blindly by one and all.

Now for a rational take on conf. expansion...

There is little to no impetus for existing BCS conferences to expand.

The reason given by conference expansion proponents is "to have leagues of 12 teams so they can hold a conference championship game"; unfortunately for schools like us and Utah, the tide of popular opinion has shifted on Conference Championship games, and the leagues that currently hold them are at best ambivalent about them, and some wish they didn't have them at all. Ironically, it is the SEC--the conference that started this fad in the first place--that has been most vocal about how much they dislike their Championship game.

The popular opinion is that Conf Championships are a hardship for good teams to get to BCS games and particularly the BCS Championship game, and the added revenue from the Championship game is not seen as sufficient to make up for the added risk of holding the game in the first place.

The last time that expansion happened with the ACC gutting the Big (L)East, it wasn't Conference Championship games that where the main cause (although they took the cash while they were about it), but TV contracts.

The ACC was the weakest of the BCS conferences in football prior to expansion, and with the U.S. in a recession when the next round of TV contract talks were scheduled to begin, they knew they would be in a very tough spot at the negotiating table.

Plus, there were rumors that other conferences might come after Florida St to try and make themselves look more attractive to ESPN, et.al., so the ACC took the breathtakingly audacious step of calling Ernie Tranghese's bluff and stealing his best teams from the Big East.

This boldness was rewarded the next year when the ACC got a large raise in their ESPN TV contract, including the (now) plum Thursday night time slot.

If there was going to be a chain reaction of expansion and changes, that was the time it would have happened. Instead, the only other changes were the Big East inviting a couple of schools in desperation, and that, as they say, was that.

Once again, in the current climate, there is little to no impetus for conferences to realign or expand, and until something comes up (perhaps the NEXT round of TV contracts?), there won't be any changes on the college football map.

LaVell Edwards didn't know he was a revolutionary

The LaVell Edwards we all know and love is a humble, self deprecating man who is deft with a quip, yet doesn't let his quips turn poisonous or hurtful. He is a man who is competitive, yet even the coaches of rival schools couldn't bring themselves to say anything bad about him.

Even the most uncouth rival fans were so unarmed by LaVell's charm that he couldn't say more than that he was the model for the "bitter beer face". Weak smack, indeed.

In this world, as the saying goes, good guys don't finish first...apparently, someone forgot to tell Coach Edwards that.

Even more amazing, perhaps, wasn't that he turned a perennial doormat into a national football program, but that this soft spoken, buttondown conservative, was to be a revolutionary radical. A force for change so potent, that when he left the game, the landscape of college football and offensive football--in college and Pro--was completely changed.

Who knew in 1973 when he first walked the sidelines that we were looking at a revolutionary? Nobody.

Even LaVell didn't see it. He has said that he figured that, like all the other BYU coaches, he'd likely last three years. Planning ahead, he got his Ed.D in these years, so he could go into education once he was fired.

University President Oaks was so underwhelmed by LaVell that when the Athletic Director told him he wanted to hire LaVell, he reportedly said: "you're sure about that?" In fact, he wouldn't have been hired at all, except that the players were behind him, and went to the athletic director to plead for him to hire LaVell.

Before LaVell, football was a blood and guts sport of "three yards and a cloud of dust". The single wing, the wing T, the triple option...all offenses that involved an almost superfluous QB whose primary responsibility was to decide after the snap which running back to hand or pitch the ball off to, and then--2 or 3 yards later--do the same thing again.

College recruiting involved finding the biggest, most athletic offensive linemen, fullbacks, and halfbacks, and pounding the opponent into submission.

As LaVell said, he knew he'd never be able to compete in that world, so he searched far and wide for a way to do things differently. The old defensive coordinator, the guy who was only put on BYU's staff originally because he was the only coach in the state who ran the single wing offense, found a great equalizer: the pass.

Instead of big, amazingly athletic olineman, BYU just needed big olineman who could swallow up dlineman and keep them off the QB.

Instead of needing RB's that were human bulls that could throw their bodies into a 1000 pound pile and keep doing it again and again, BYU needed quick guys that could find a hole in a draw trap play and make defenses pay. Instead of being able to run over the middle linebacker, BYU just needed RBs who could catch a flare pass and run away from the middle linebacker.

And, instead of WRs who could block like tight ends, BYU needed quick guys who could run great routes and catch anything from a QB who, instead of being a glorified triple wing center, actually had the charge to run an offense, and throw the ball anywhere on the field, at any time.

Opposing coaches scoffed and dismissed it as a "gimmick", but when no defense could stop it, and BYU started beating Top 10 teams who, on paper, should have beaten us badly, teams were forced to take notice.

It is no coincidence that the revolution of the West Coast offense in the NFL started on the West Coast. For a decade colleges in the West had been exposed to BYU's brand of explosive offense, and the 49er's Walsh--once a college coach at Stanford--took the basic principles of a controlled, ball control aerial attack and made them his own.

Even today, the most sophisticated high school passing attacks are on the West Coast, and when one of these offenses are installed in the South, they are called "revolutionary". The Pac 10 is now considered a passing league almost exclusively, and people wonder how that came to be. They throw ideas out like "with the sun and the surf, they aren't tough enough to play hardnose football" or other ridiculous theories.

We know that they have adapted because they wanted to win, and the single wing wasn't going to do it any longer in an area where your opponent might put up 30 points in a half through the air.

It is also no coincidence that LaVell disciples continue to leaven the ranks of college and NFL coaching staffs. Ambitious coaches could sense the shift, and men such as Mike Holgren, Andy Reid, Norm Chow, Ted Tollner, Mike Leach, Brian Billick, Steve Sarkisian, and others learned at LaVell's feet, then took those lessons with them throughout the country.

It is a story misunderstood and seldom told around the nation, but it is starting to find its way to popular consciousness. Just a couple of years ago, ESPN's dean of college football, Bill Curry, wrote a blog in which he said that LaVell revolutionized college football.

For those of us who remember the slights and digs about a "gimmick" football team, it was a moment to be savored.

There is a recent documentary called "New York Doll" where they talk about how an obscure, transvestite looking band in 1973 went on a "very serious, somber" music show in Britian called "The Old Grey Whistle Test", and even though they were mocked by the host (who called them "mock rock"), they started a revolution that led to literally dozens of bands in England from the Sex Pistols to The Smiths to The Clash to Generation X to the American Glam Rock bands of the 80's.

The New York Dolls in their day were trying to be revolutionary--and they were. They looked like revolutionaries, and no one looking back at them now was surprised to see them be so.

No one, though, looking at LaVell Edwards in that same year of 1973, would have put that label on him. Yet, looking back at it now, he was in that same vein: a man who, after his efforts were done, left his world completely changed.

My 1st Blog entry

It has been over 20 years since I became a BYU Cougar fan. I remember my oldest brother coming home from school and talking about how BYU beat a Top 10 team called Texas A&M University in Texas, but although that whetted my appetite for more athletic feats from my Church's school, it wasn't until the Heroic Era of Ainge, Young, and National Championships that I became a true-blue, dyed in the wool BYU fan.

It was hard to follow BYU sports in those day, before ESPN and before the Internet. Usually, my BYU coverage was reduced to looking in the Sunday LA Times sports page for a score (and too often it would read: "BYU v Hawaii--night", and I'd have to look again on Monday).

For a while there was a 900 number that promised "real time scores", but thankfully for my parent's bank balance, that service quickly went away. I do remember pulling in Paul James in all his stat quoting glory for a time when I lived in Northern California, but that was short lived, also.

So, why do I preface this post with that long-winded, nostalgic opening? Only because no matter how limited my week to week coverage of BYU sports was through the years, I have gained 20 years of perspective, and I thought that this would be a good arena to discuss where BYU is today, versus where they once were.

Twenty years ago, BYU was the nouveau riche, the bratty teenager on the college sports scene. BYU had recently expanded the campus to its present size of 30K students, and we used that size to announce our presence to the rest of the nation.

Thanks to one of the finest football coaches to ever walk a sideline--and a brand new type of explosive offense later adapted and renamed the "West Coast Offense"--BYU football was reborn as a competitive team who liked to crash the highbrow, country club parties of the "traditional powers". As is standard operating procedure for nouveau riche, we ruffled a few feathers along the way, and we were called things like "Bo Diddley Tech" and "a gimmick team with a gimmick offense".

We kept winning, however, until we finally dropped a stink bomb on the most hallowed part of college football, winning a National Championship in a (say it ain't so!) non New Year's Day Bowl game. Michigan was the sacrificial lamb traditional power who was sacrificed on our altar that day, and I'm sure they were not invited to all the highbrow, country club parties hosted by other "traditional powers" that Winter in retribution for letting us track mud all over their silk carpets at their club.

Our fans, new to this "football power" stuff, thought we could beat anybody, anyday, and weren't shy about telling anyone who would listen about it. For all the embarrassment caused by their boasting, though, they put their money where their mouths were, and financed a stadium expansion that put us in the first rank of college stadiums. They also put their selves on the line, and packed that 65K seat stadium every week--whether we were playing UCLA or UTEP--propelling us to a ranking in the Top 25 for attendance for decades.

Our fans were also a puzzle to bowl organizers. Our fans would pack a bowl game (as long as it was in the West), but the organizers rarely saw us at bowl rallies or at the hotels in town. It was likely in response to questions about this that LaVell, in typical self deprecation, first mouthed his "$10 and the Ten commandments" crack which has been linked with us even today.

We were in our dot.com days of athletics, with explosive growth and few institutionalized procedures to manage it--and everyone was along for the ride. Although we were serious about following NCAA rules, there were rumors about lax Honor Code enforcement among athletes, and there were other issues, including sad reports about how a few football player became addicted to pain medication prescribed by BYU trainers.

Nevertheless, it was a hopeful time, and we thought it would continue on forever, as long as LaVell stuck around, and as long as we kept throwing the ball.


In my next installment, I'll talk about the Heroic Era of BYU basketball, and where we are today.
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