Is Nick Howell the Next Coach at BYU?


Dec 20, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Brigham Young Cougars special teams coach Nick Howell reacts after the Cougars blocked a punt during the third quarter against the San Diego State Aztecs at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

We finally have football this week! However, until then we have one more week of writing about things to come.

To whet your appetite, let me wax prophetic about how I see things playing out in the long run for BYU Football and their future head coach.

The State of Coaching at BYU

Bronco Mendenhall himself recently said that he was surprised he was still head coach at BYU. This will be his tenth season leading the Cougars.

“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.”

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  • Mendenhall has always been upfront that he is not a lifer at BYU. When asked about what he would love to do after football, it has involved teaching at BYU-Hawaii and lots of surfing.

    He recently likened himself to a mission president in what it is like to be a coach at BYU. If that is the case, I would assume it is an extremely fulfilling job while also being incredibly taxing. There is a reason mission presidents serve for only three years.

    Maybe his new approach this year focusing on being more “CEO of the team” and letting his coordinators do their jobs will allow him to coach much longer than he had originally anticipated.

    If not, who is set up to be the next head ball coach?

    Who Could Replace Mendenhall?

    History would dictate an outside hire for the majority of head coaches at BYU. G. Ott Romney was brought in from Montana Agricultural in 1928; Chick Atkinson from Idaho in 1949; Tommy Hudspeth from Canada in 1964; and Gary Crowton most recently from the NFL in 2001.

    Arguably, coaches who have been promoted from within like Eddie Kimball (1937), the legend LaVell Edwards (1972), and Bronco Mendenhall (2005) have proven to be more successful.

    Currently on the staff, the immediate thoughts turn to Dr. Robert Anae (Offensive Coordinator) and Nick Howell (Defensive Coordinator).

    Why Not Anae?

    Sep 27, 2013; Provo, UT, USA; Brigham Young Cougars offensive coordinator Robert Anae during warm-ups prior to the game against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Looking again to history, when BYU needed a head coach after LaVell Edwards, people assumed Norm Chow was the heir apparent. For whatever reason this didn’t happen, and Chow left BYU feeling somewhat betrayed.

    Robert Anae doesn’t exactly scream head coach. While Bronco Mendenhall is no Pete Carroll when it comes to dealing with the media, Dr. Bob always seems to be channeling Gregg Popovich when talking to reporters. Although he probably isn’t, he comes off as kind of a jerk.

    Dealing with media is hardly the only qualification for being head coach. But Anae isn’t overly popular with fans or the media, and is seen as someone who fails to make adjustments during games.

    Coach Anae has a bevy of experience when it comes to playing and coaching that is extremely valuable to the program. But he is pretty rough around the edges for a head coach, and I wouldn’t put him at first in line when the vacancy opens.

    Why Nick Howell is BYU’s Next Coach

    Bronco Mendenhall has seemed to be tailor-made for being head coach at BYU. Tom Holmoe has voiced his support.

    “He’s done an incredible job. There have been issues crop up and they always will. 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.”

    By all accounts, Nick Howell is Bronco 2.0. “No one thinks like I do and knows what I want like he does,” said Mendenhall of Howell recently. Players and others around the program have joked about Nick being Bronco’s clone for some time now.

    While there are pockets of complaints, most fans would agree when being totally honest that Bronco Mendenhall has been a home-run hire for the Cougars. It will be tough to replace him when he’s ready to go.

    I believe Nick Howell is being groomed for the head coaching position because he is so similar to Bronco. It would be a seamless transition for the team and program, and after seeing Howell’s results on the defensive side of the ball the administration would feel confident in what they would be getting.

    Maybe Mendenhall will end up proving himself wrong and be a lifer at BYU. Maybe at the end of his tenure there will be a statue of Bronco at the stadium, sporting his trademark scowl at all those who enter to see BYU Football. And maybe Nick Howell will have moved on to coach elsewhere.

    Then again, maybe not.