BYU NewsNet reports that the Cougars have an unprecedented 21 oral commitments from new recruits, which is second only to the National Champion Texas Longhorns. The Y’s 21 commitments are three times the number of all other Mountain West schools combined.
Put in national perspective:
Nebraska and Oklahoma, two powerhouse football programs, combine for 13. Miami and Ohio State have seven each, and Pac-10 dominators USC and Oregon each have eight commitments.
So, what is BYU’s success formula?
“The sales pitch,” Tidwell said, “is come to BYU and you’re going to have the whole package. You’re going to have a great university that has everything to offer you as an individual and to be a better football player.”
This new level of recruiting excellence stems from the well-accepted philosophy of second year head coach Bronco Mendenhall: get the best LDS players before anybody else gets them.
“I have a very specific profile of player we’re looking for at Brigham Young because the mission of the university is specific and distinct from any other place in the country,” Mendenhall said. “I think BYU ought to do the best job of identifying [LDS players], recruiting them and signing them every year from this point on. I don’t intend for others to have their first pick and then we’ll pick up what’s left.”
The coaching staff have three iron clad rules:
What is the specific profile the coaches and administration are looking for? Tidwell said first and foremost he has to be a Division I player.
“Bottom line is he’s got to be able to play football,” he said.
Secondly, the player has to fit in academically.
“He can be a D-I player, and be a great kid, and be a right fit, but can he get into school?” Tidwell said.
Finally, Tidwell said, if he is a Division I player and has shown academic responsibility, the character of the athlete, the third aspect, usually falls in line.
“You’ve got to have those standards and values, but you can’t put that ahead of the other two because obviously you’ve got to win,” Tidwell said.
After several long and lean post LaVell years, the Cougars were ready for wholesale change. The winning seasons were gone, and scandal began to plague the football program. Enter new Cougar Coach Bronco Mendenhall:
When Mendenhall came aboard as BYU’s head coach his responsibility was clear: clean up camp and return BYU football to excellence.
The two years before Mendenhall’s takeover were filled with incredible disappointments on and off the field. Players being investigated in rape charges, alcohol use and honor code violations embarrassed the university and smeared the idea of what it meant to be a BYU football player. On the field, the team struggled through two consecutive losing seasons, and fan support dwindled.
Mendenhall immediately raised the bar upon his inception as head coach.
“The expectations of what I ask of our players haven’t been for everybody,” he said.
Still, even though the Y places heavy emphasis on recruiting the best and brightest LDS athletes, they certainly don’t discriminate on the basis of religion:
Given the philosophy in targeting LDS athletes, the Cougar coaching staff is still dedicated to finding non-LDS athletes who fit the mold of a BYU football player.
“We’re still going to recruit and try and get the best D-I players we can, regardless of religion,” Tidwell said. “We’ve got a couple of kids out of California who aren’t LDS that are D-I, big-time national recruits, and because of the atmosphere that’s here, this is where they want to come.”
Winning is of supreme importance, no matter the religion of the athlete. Though much of the new recruiting program is focused on the character of the player, players want to know about the tradition of excellence at BYU, and the BYU staff is “happy to tell them,” Tidwell said.
Recruiting success like this can only be a good omen for BYU football. We’ve lived in the desert of defeat for too many years. Well, ok maybe not quite that drastic–but when you’ve come of age during the LaVell Edwards dynasty, the last few years since his departure do seem a bit long. But, with favorable pre-season projections and the recruitment success, there may be actually something for us Cougar fans to Rise and Shout about!