PROVO — When Bronco Mendenhall was promoted to head coach at BYU in December 2004, he never dreamed he would still be in this position a decade later.
Yet, here he is.
“That doesn’t even fit in terms of making sense,” he said of reaching that 10-year milestone. “If you would have asked me would I expect to make it to year 10, I said many times earlier that I didn’t expect to be here that long.”
Mendenhall could be around for quite a while longer. He signed a deal with BYU in the summer of 2013 that extended his contract through the 2016 season.
Of course, he acknowledges that the coaching profession takes its toll. “Coaching years are almost like dog years,” Mendenhall has said. “One year is like seven normal years.”
When he took the reins of the program, BYU was coming off of three consecutive losing seasons. Since 2005, Mendenhall has guided the Cougars to an 82-34 record and five finishes in the Associated Press Top 25.
During his tenure, Mendenhall has spent stints in a dual role as head coach and defensive coordinator. A couple of years ago, he relinquished his title of defensive coordinator and gave it to Nick Howell. This year, Mendenhall is giving the responsibility of defensive play-calling to Howell.
It’s part of his evolution as a head coach.
These days, Mendenhall’s spending more time with the offense, as well as handling overall head coaching responsibilities, and, as a result, he feels “re-energized,” he said.
“The position I’m in as head coach,” Mendenhall said, “it almost feels new.”
Athletic director Tom Holmoe said Mendenhall has done “very well” as a head coach.
“He’s done an incredible job. There have been issues crop up and they always will,” Holmoe said. “I’ve had that experience of being a college head football coach. It’s a tough job. And it’s a really tough job at BYU. For all the things that you’ve heard and seen, I’ve seen so many more that don’t become public. In my opinion, he’s a really, really good overall football coach. That goes to things that happen behind the scenes.
"I’ve had this conversation with a number of people lately. You see coaches do or say crazy things. Most coaches become college coaches because they’ve had success as technical people in their sport. They’re generally focused on that one thing. Then they get into this incredible job at a Division I college football university and there’s a lot of other things that go with being a coach, not just how you do. In all those things, Bronco does a really good job at.”
Holmoe noted that Mendenhall is among the longest-tenured coaches in college football. “That’s amazing, for 127 teams,” Holmoe said.
Under Mendenhall, the Cougars rank No. 10 nationally in total wins since 2006 (76-28). BYU has posted five 10-win seasons since 2005, which is No. 10 nationally. Only nine teams have enjoyed more 10-win seasons over that span (Ohio State, Alabama, Boise State, Louisiana State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia Tech, TCU and USC).
Plus, BYU is one of only 12 programs to receive a bowl invitation each of the past nine years.
Mendenhall is not only comfortable with the unique aspects of BYU, but he understands the expectations for the program. The Cougars are looking to improve on their 8-5 record last season.
"I've self-imposed — no one has imposed it on me — that the minimum standard is a top 25 ranking," Mendenhall has said. "That's what I believe is supposed to happen at BYU. Expectations are top 25. To do that, you have to win double-digit (games). That’s just a yearly thing.”