Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cougar Club luncheon: The ugly side of Bronco

I had a unique opportunity an hour or so ago to eat lunch with some of the high rollers in the BYU Cougar Club.

The Cougar Club hosts luncheons every month, and the program includes a catered lunch, all the Shasta and Costco cookies you can eat, and a presentation from BYU coaches.

Today's program featured coach Ed Eyestone of the BYU track and cross country teams, and coach Bronco Mendenhall of the mathematics department.

Just kidding. I actually think Bronco was an early education major.

Anyway, I'd like to cut to the chase a little bit here and just go right into Bronco's presentation.

He started by explaining to everyone what's been going on in team meetings. He said, roughly, that he's amazed by what lengths people will go to get information about team meetings. Apparently there have been some rumors floating around. He said rather than let people speculate, he'd show us what's going on in the meetings.

Bronco told us that there are portions of each meeting devoted to an inspirational message, and the players (not the coaches--he was very careful to stress that) come up with the content. He showed us a particular example of an inspirational message used in yesterday's team meeting. It was an address given by Bruce R. McConkie set to... let's say... religious pictures. I won't go into details because it was a very faith-based message, and this is not the proper forum.

Personally, I found it very nice. It was a very good message for anyone--even football players.

Whether it belongs in an actual football team meeting can be debated...

Bronco then took some questions, and this is where it got really interesting.

The first question was from a sweet old lady who asked about Justin Sorenson. She asked why no kicks went out of the endzone.

Bronco answered curtly by telling her that 4 of Sorenson's first 5 kicks were touchbacks "doubling last year's total," he said and the audience applauded. Then he went on to say that Sorenson has a pulled groin, and that before we go criticizing him any more we should remember that he's injured and he's doing his best.

...okay coach.

Another sweet old lady explained that she was the mother of 6 boys and asked the coach how he regulates teaching his players about the Spirit, but also controlling their emotions on the football field.

The answer from Bronco is that it's very difficult and they're doing their best.

(At this point some old guy's phone went off in the back and he answered and started talking loudly--like only old people can do--right while Bronco was talking. It was a funny moment: While Bronco was speaking there was just this old guy in the back of the room saying "I'LL BE HOME IN A HALF AN HOUR, HONEY.")

Bronco finished his answer and announced "One more question." For those of you keeping score at home that makes three--three total questions.

The honor went to a guy on the front row who made a comment about the players lining around the stadium to shake hands with the fans. Bronco answered by saying, and I kid you not, "It's completely the players' idea, and that's the kind of program we're trying to build. Thank you."

And with that, Bronco darted out of the room.

I know most of you reading this probably didn't see this meeting, so I want to convey to you that it was a very strange event. When Bronco addressed the crowd, it was almost like he was ripping a neighbor who let his dog crap on Bronco's lawn. He seemed annoyed, frustrated and genuinely upset.

My dad, who attended the luncheon along with me, and I left the Cougar Room a little confused. His remark was "Well I can go anywhere and get chewed out."

And that's how we felt. We felt like Bronco chewed us out and left with a chip on his shoulder. Coach Mendenhall certainly didn't do much to engender any warm feelings among the Cougar Club faithful.

The whole situation was very interesting, and it got me thinking about the life of a coach. Today's football coaches aren't just coaches. They're PR guys, ambassadors, spokesmen, broadcasters, punching bags, butt-kissers etc. Some handle these auxiliary duties a little better than others, but increasingly each duty is becoming more and more important.

Bronco, for instance, probably didn't realize (or maybe he just doesn't care) that the people in that room were the same people paying his salary.

He also didn't seem to realize that we are proponents. Not only do we appreciate what he's doing, but we support it. We're not the media, which Bronco seems to loathe so much. We're not opponents. We're not players, and we're not coaches. We are the true blue, dyed in the wool supporters of all things BYU. You don't need to bark at us like we're going to dig up your favorite bone.

I'm sorry to harp on this but you just don't address your own constituents like they're misbehaving children who need a good spankin'. After all, coach, we're on your side.

Look--I like Bronco. I think he's doing a fine job with the program, and he has transformed the football team from a simple athletic program into a beacon of good in the world. I support him 100%, but at the same time he is by no means perfect. One suggestion I would give him is this: Lighten up, coach. Don't be so ticked off all the time, especially in front of your friends.

Anyway, I hate being an iconoclast, but I had to get it off my chest. Go Cougs!


Becky said...

You mean to say that Bronco isn't just annoyed by Tom Kirkland?

Other thoughts of mine:
- your father attended the luncheon "along with you" :)
- i'm so sick of everyone complaining about religion being integrated into this fb program. who cares! it is a church school. 'nuff said. i'm fine with it.
- yeah, bronco does need to lighten up a bit...but as long as he's delivering wins i'm coo wid it!

Jared said...

You forgot the "question" from the gentleman who ripped on Dallas Reynolds for not getting the ball to Max. Unfortunately Bronco didn't handle that one any better.

To an extent it seemed that Bronco set the whole situation up for failure. The audience wanted to hear about football. He choose to give a sunday school sermon. While I agree that the church is an important aspect of the program, that isn't what people came to hear. The questions were doomed to fail from the start.

I'll agree though, there was a whole lot of tension in the room when Bronco left. Definitely the oddest Bronco speech I've ever heard.

Adam said...

Good call, Jared, I knew I forgot a question.

Mike Smith said...

It sounds like this whole "Locker-gate" thing and Quest for Perfection is affecting at least Bronco. I don't mean to come across as a cynic, but maybe all of this hype and being on a national stage is caving in on Bronco and BYU. Take a step back and look at this season. We are 2-0, have a non conference road win, Max Hall looks terrific, a great O-line, we have the most consistent kicking game in years, highly touted recruits coming in, we have a consistent running game. I could go on, but my point is that I think that this is what is annoying Bronco at the moment. BYU starts the year with a ton of hype, starts off 2-0 (not with out hiccups, but what team doesn't--look at Ohio State) and the only thing people ask him about is what he thought about Locker's penalty which he has stated multiple times now. Anyway, in my opinion, Bronco seems to be a little defensive and weary of anyone asking him questions because of the current situation and it seems that there is a lot of negative feelings in the air when it should be completely the opposite. Give him a little bit of slack. I know that you weren't attacking him, but I want to point this out in his defense and sorry for being long :)

Adam said...

You make a great point, Mike.

Jim said...

I wasn't at the luncheon but cut Bronco some slack. These questions sound like they are from the post-game call in show. LaVell used to go nuts answering them. They are stupid questions and it is too bad a major college coach has to answer them. Sure all the fans are, in effect, paying Bronco's salary but we won't be paying it for long if he has to attend events like that one. Let him coach. He does well with that.

Anonymous said...

I too was at the meeting.

1. Food was great from Tucanos.
2. Sodas were from Coca Cola not from Shasta.
3. The people asking questions were "old".
4. Bronco was short, a bit abrupt.
5. These people pump millions into the budget.
6. A little love, a little giving, a smile, a few jokes would go a long way for Bronco to win over the hearts of the fan base. There is no need for the attitude, at least it came across that way.

Jeremy said...

You hit it on the head. I was there and felt the same way.

Bronco seems to be losing patience with Cougar fans in general or maybe more specifically with the Cougar Club. The times I have been there, yah, there have been some really dumb questions asked, but really I think people are just looking for a taste of the program and want especially want his insight as the head guy. It seems he takes a lot of questions as though they are meant as criticism when I don’t think they are. I know he gets a lot of that, more than he can stand.

He is doing a great job and has earned his statue as far as i am concerned. If just feels as though he is hanging by a thread and one day he is going to throw up his hands and say “screw all of you ya bunch of ingrates, I am out a here!”

I hope not!

Anonymous said...

Bronco is who he is.

Chase said...

A couple of my own thoughts:
1) Tom Kirkland would drive anyone crazy
2) Bronco has more on his shoulders than any other coach in sports; football is the vehicle, remember?
3) I'm sure he gets irritated with football sometimes because, as he calls it, it's the "business" part.
4) Bronco has done a tremendous amount of work in a short amount of time (to both the program and the "Business" side. I'm sure he'd like a little breathing room, less critics, and fewer petty concerns like the ones that people often tend to bring up. I'm sure he's thinking, "we're winning games aren't we - then get off my nuts!"
5) Didn't you guys hear about all the players disciplined from the UW game? ( I'm sure he's under major strain because of this.
6) I agree with Anon. who said he is who he is. Let him be. That formula seems to be working so far. When it works . . . don't screw with it!

Travis said...

I think Bronco is getting tired of the fan base criticizing him, and his players. I don't blame him for protecting his players when little old ladies are asking questions about the ineffectiveness of his team. He gets enough of that crap from the media everyday, the Cougar Club should read the paper if they want that type of information. It sounds like the Cougar Club was disrespectful to Bronco with their lame questions, and inappropriate phone calls.

There is a reason these luncheons are closed to the media, maybe you should respect that a little bit more. On second thought, maybe you are trying to be like Patrick Kinahan by reporting controversial stuff to draw people to your blog. You need to get a better role model.

Anonymous said...

Remember the scene in Hoosiers when Coach Dale is first introduced as the new coach at the barbershop and the pastor asks "Do you believe in zone or man-to-man defense?" Then everyone agrees that zone is the only thing that would ever work. Coach Dale thanks everyone for his time and walks out, leaving everyone staring in disbelief. This is how I picture the Cougar Club luncheon. I'm just glad we have Norman Dale as our coach (as long as we are Hickory High and not the Ithaca Warriors in which case Bronco would help us win a National Championship and then punch one of our own players in the face)

AMalufau said...

I liked the Post and good for you for writing it. Everyone is quick to make excuses for Bronco saying, "people need to leave him alone," and "people need to quit asking dumb questions" or "maybe it was because of the penalty and he is sick of the media."

First of all, it didn't sound like there were any questions asked at all about the penalty or Jake Locker or any controversy and there wasn't any media there, so whether he likes Tom Kirkland (who I can't stand either by the way) or any other member of the media has nothing to do with what happened at the luncheon.

Sure people can ask dumb questions, but what do you expect when you're talking to the Cougar Club and a bunch of old boosters and alumni. The fact is, that it's part of his job, just as recruiting and scouting and anything else is. Being a coach is much more than just delivering wins.

Nobody's perfect and maybe he was having a bad day, but that's not the Cougar Clubs fault and don't take it out on them. I'm not saying jump down the guys throat and demand a public apology or anything which I know you're not doing, but there's nothing wrong with expecting him to handle the situation better. Good post.

Mars said...

Sometimes I wonder why our fanbase is so lame. When even our bloggers attack the head coach for "not answering enough questions or making his answers long or nice enough", that's a sign of us being seriously spoiled.

Think of what the Penn State fans have to face when it comes to their program. Then compare to ours. Then relax, maybe get a life.

In short, no more baby blogs, please. I liked this site a lot more before today. Maybe next week's blog will be dissecting Bronco's shoes and wardrobe or something equally as lame- that would be my last visit here.

Adam said...

"Attack" the head coach? Geez. A little over-dramatic, don't you think?

I'm simply reporting what I saw and heard, and how it made me (and apparently others) feel. Disagree if you want, but calling me a spoiled baby won't solve anything.

Rock said...

As long as he wins, they (boosters) will pay his salary. Regardless of how he treats them.