Since 1972, BYU football has only had three head coaches in that span. After Friday afternoon’s shocking announcement that Bronco Mendenhall would be leaving BYU to become the head coach at Virginia, the Cougars will now begin the national search to hire their fourth headman in the last 43 years, and the 14th in program history.
BYU is a unique job, a job that requires the head coach to be an active member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS/Mormon). That right there limits the pool of candidates that BYU could pick from significantly. There are a few outliers in the LDS coaching pool like Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, but Reid isn’t coming through BYU’s door to lead his alma mater.
On top of the LDS member requirement, BYU doesn’t have the money to give a coach $3.25 million a year like Mendenhall will be receiving in Charlottesville. People close to BYU’s program believe that the $3.25 million salary Mendenhall will receive at Virginia is double what Bronco was making per year with the Cougars.
Oh, don’t forget, BYU is currently a football independent with no Power 5 conference likely calling anytime soon. The lack of stability from independence was something that concerned Mendenhall and it could be something that turns away potential candidates.
The BYU job is a tough one, arguably the toughest one in major college football. Some Power 5 coaches would already agree with that sentiment.
Who is ready to tackle this job? Who are the names? Here are six coaches that people need to keep an eye on as potential replacements for Bronco Mendenhall at BYU.
6 Coaching Candidates to Replace Bronco Mendenhall at BYU
Ken Niumatalolo, head coach, Navy
Niumatalolo has had tremendous success as the head coach at Navy. Since taking over the job in 2007, Niumatalolo has posted a record of 66-37. This season has arguably been Niumatalolo’s best with the Midshipmen leading them to a 9-2 record thus far. The question with Niumatalolo is what offense would he run? BYU is known for their strong history of passing the football; Niumatalolo however, is well versed in running the triple option, even dating back to his playing days at one of BYU’s old WAC rivals, Hawaii (1987-1989). Niumatalolo is also familiar with running an independent program. Prior to this season’s move to the American Athletic Conference, the Midshipmen navigated the uncertain waters of football independence.
Kalani Sitake, defensive coordinator, Oregon State
Sitake played at BYU (1994, 1997-2000) when legendary head coach LaVell Edwards was roaming the sidelines for the Cougars. Sitake is a link to the past, and he’s gained his coaching chops from successful head coaches in Kyle Whittingham and Gary Andersen. BYU wants their program to be a destination spot for top LDS recruits again, and one of Sitake’s biggest selling points is his ability to recruit, particularly in the trenches.
Robert Anae, offensive coordinator, BYU
Anae is deep-rooted in BYU football from his playing days on the 1984 national championship team, to being the offensive coordinator. Anae knows BYU football, and he knows how to pass the football. His systematic approach to play calling has received many criticisms from BYU fans, but he has consistently put out offenses that have produced a lot of points. The question on Anae, is this a hire that would generate excitement and momentum?
Kyle Whittingham, head coach, Utah
BYU’s AD Tom Holmoe made it clear on Friday night’s press conference addressing the departure of Mendenhall that the Cougars financially are not on the same playing field as Power 5 programs which makes it tough to put up a name like Kyle Whittingham on this list as candidates for the vacant BYU job. But there’s so many connections and history with BYU and Whittingham that it’s hard to ignore. Especially when you consider Holmoe and Whittingham once were roommates during their playing days at BYU There’s a relationship and a connection. But if Whittingham was upset with the lack of a financial commitment to the football program and the coaches on staff last year from his current boss, Utah AD Chris Hill, he won’t be thrilled with the financial numbers that BYU would be throwing around.
Lance Anderson, defensive coordinator, Stanford
Anderson is now in his second year as the defensive coordinator at Stanford. Anderson was one of the architects of Stanford’s tough and physical style of play on the defensive side of the ball as he came to Palo Alto with former Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh from their days at San Diego. Anderson is a very good recruiter, particularly with LDS kids as he has lured away many LDS prospects from the state of Utah to come play on the farm.
Jay Hill, head coach, Weber State
Jay Hill is a dark horse in this race as he is currently the head coach at Weber State from the FCS ranks. Hill was a longtime assistant at the University of Utah under Ron McBride, Urban Meyer, and Kyle Whittingham. Hill is a good recruiter, and was a coach that was receiving interest in Utah’s defensive coordinator job after Kalani Sitake left for Oregon State last season. Hill led Weber State to a 6-5 record in only his second season with the Wildcats.