Why Cougar Fans like Dave Rose more than Bronco Mendenhall

Why Cougar Fans like Dave Rose more than Bronco Mendenhall


Watching BYU battle Baylor last weekend and nearly pull off the upset made me realize something:

BYU Basketball is so much better and more entertaining than BYU Football these days. The Cougar hoopsters had no business being in that game against the #6/7 team in the country. Yet they were and the Marriott Center was an absolute mad house. It was a lot of fun to watch.

Don’t get me wrong. BYU football is in the midst of finishing a 9-3 season. However, it will go down as one of the the most hollow 9-3 seasons ever. BYU hoops on the other hand is flying as high as it’s been in the last 25-30 years.

I thought it might be interesting to compare the two programs by evaluating common issues:


Public perception of head coaches:

Bronco Mendenhall certainly knows how to build a winning team and it’s hard to argue with his record. He could sure use more wins against teams he’s not supposed to beat. Also, it might help to not lose at home to your rival by 44 points.

Winning and losing aside, we tend to remember Bronco Mendenhall more for outlandish statements that we can’t quite make sense of. Things like telling the media after the TCU game this year that “They wanted to keep playing football,” insinuating his team was finally getting the game figured out as the 4th quarter came to a close. Thing is, the game is only 60 minutes and for the 4th year in a row Gary Patterson’s team outclassed Bronco’s while the game was actually contested on the field.

Another Broncoism that drives fans crazy is his relentless mention of the quality of young men in his program. He often ties this in to his ‘football is the 5th priority for the guys’ after school, family, church and whatever the 4th one is. It’s great that he’s developing the players on and off the field but fans get tired of it. They don’t care about firesides. They care about winning football.

Dave Rose: What exactly do we hear from him? …………..Not much. That’s what’s so wonderful. He just produces 20-win teams year in and year out. It should be noted that the head football coach at BYU has always been more of a public figure than the basketball coach. Dave Rose is just fine with that though. All he does is win. No silly t-shirts that say “Quest for Perfection.” No complaining when the basketball program was dumped on and moved to the West Coast Conference in the name of football independence. Rose just rolls with the punches.

Remember back in 2009 when Dave Rose was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently treated. He didn’t make a big deal of it. He fortunately got himself healthy and then just went about his business of winning games. Dave Rose pancreatic cancer


Star Players

Dave Rose helped make Jimmer Fredette the most recognizable athlete that will ever come out of BYU. You might remember Jimmer was rather erratic as a freshman and sophomore. He forced a ton of shots. However, you could tell the guy had some magic in him. So what did Dave Rose do? He basically turned the team over to him. He gave him the green light on any shot, let him get away with playing no defense and look what it resulted in. In Jimmer’s junior season, BYU finally won a first round tournament game again, and then went to the Sweet 16 his senior year. (It’s arguable BYU would have gone to the Final Four had Davies not been dismissed.)

Bronco on the other hand seemed to somehow screw up the single biggest football recruit in the history of the school. Yes, I know Heaps had his struggles and we’ll see what he does after transferring. However, it just seemed odd to give up on Heaps the way they did. And yes, benching your starting quarterback and then telling him to red-shirt as a Jr. is basically showing him the door.


Style of Play

A buddy of mine runs a restaurant in Provo. He used to give out free cake to fans every time BYU scored 80 points. Though the name recognition was great, he told me he got tired of giving away hundreds of slices of cake every game night to cheap college students that wouldn’t buy anything else. My point is: BYU basketball routinely has high scoring games. Dave Rose encourages a full-speed, up and down the court style of play. The next time you watch a game, see what he often does after a defensive rebound. Rose looks like a 3rd base coach waving a guy home all the way from 1st base. He’s encouraging a quick outlet pass to the guard and wants the team off to the races. Not to mention, it seems like anyone under 6′ 9″ has a green light to shoot the 3 ball. It makes for a very exciting game.

On the grid-iron, long gone are the days of the Norm Chow offense chucking it all over the field. I bring up something from over a decade ago because that’s what Cougar fans grew up on and that’s what they are accustomed to seeing. Bronco Mendenhall teams also put up great numbers when they had the services of John Beck and Max Hall. They are a far cry from that these last two seasons though.


Emphasis on Practice

We’ve all heard Bronco’s mantra by now – “It’s all about execution.” Only problem is -perfect execution is usually born from frequent practice and repetition. We heard quotes from Bronco that the Cougars were ready to go in fall camp. His offense then proceeded to go out and lay an egg the entire critical first month and a half of the season. Also, not sure if you heard when the Cougars started practicing for their Dec. 30th bowl game – just this past Monday, Dec. 19th. Their last game was Dec. 3rd against Hawaii. I’m sure the guys on the team loved not practicing for two weeks and getting through finals, but does anyone else find this a little strange?  BYU football: Cougars won’t practice for bowl game until Dec. 19

Dave Rose on the other hand dragged his guys to Europe this summer to play a slate of exhibition games and toughen them up. The Cougars ended up playing some of the European national teams.   BYU gets Greek surprise


Coaching Staffs

Bronco had to fire his defensive coordinator last year, mid-way through the season. He then essentially shoved his offensive coordinator out the door at season’s end. His new offensive coordinator is still finding his way. It can be argued that Doman’s year of settling in cost the program Jake Heaps.

On the other hand, BYU basketball’s top assistant for the past few years, Dave Rice, was hired away by big name UNLV this past off-season. Not to mention, Dave Rose himself is courted by other teams every off-season.


All in all, Bronco Mendenhall has certainly “righted the ship” at BYU and made them respectable again. The problem is – with the talent he has, the momentum he’s built and all the hype about independence –  his teams should be more than respectable. The Cougars have really been nothing more than a slightly better than average team the past two seasons.

Meanwhile, Dave Rose’s team is running wild and creating the kind of basketball excitement that hasn’t been seen since the early 80’s. The past two years have been off the charts in terms of attendance and entertainment value. I’m not even sure the Cougars will make the NCAA tournament this year. However, they will be sure to compete and entertain. In so doing, they will likely continue to attract great players that want to be part of the mad house we saw last Saturday afternoon at the Marriott Center.




Matt Nielson has been writing about the college sports landscape in Utah and the Intermountain West since 2010. When he’s not pretending to be a professional blogger, he works full time as a residential real estate agent and house flipper. Matt graduated from Brigham Young University in 2000. He and his family reside in Salt Lake City, UT.


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