Does a win or a loss today even affect Bronco Mendenhall’s post-season legacy?

bronco_mendenhallBronco Mendenhall is an amazingly consistent coach when it comes to college football bowl games. He has been head coach for ten seasons and has gone to ten bowl games. Add to that a 6-3 bowl record (.667 win %), and at least on paper he appears to be a post-game superstar. But is he? To determine his post season greatness we have to determine how he stacks up against other BYU head coaches in the post-season, and how he stacks up against other current D1 head coaches.

Bronco vs. LaVell

It is really easy to compare Bronco to most of BYU’s former head coaches… Bronco has had some success and gone bowling, the others (with one exception) haven’t. Case closed. Prior to LaVell Edwards BYU had been invited to exactly ZERO bowl games, so it truly was Edwards who put BYU on the map. And it is true that Gary Crowton was able to coach one BYU team to a bowl loss (in his first season as head coach) but I am taking him out of the comparison simply because he coached so few teams.

Coach Years TOT Bowl Games W L T Winning %
LaVell Edwards 1972-2000 29 22 7 15 1 .318
Bronco Mendenhall 2005-2014 10 10 6 3 0 .667
Total 1974-present 39 32 13 18 1 .422

[wp_ad_camp_2]On the surface it looks like Bronco Mendenhall has experience more consistent bowl game success than any other coach in BYU history. His .667 win percentage is even more impressive than his appearance EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.

But who did his teams play against? The previous table does not account for the strength of the bowl opponent or the prestige of the bowl game. LaVell Edwards was on 7-15 in bowl games, but over half his bowl opponents (13) were ranked in the Top 25. Four of his seven total bowl wins were against ranked opponents. In the Edwards era BYU played in great bowl venues including: the Fiesta Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, and of course the Holiday Bowl (11 times). Bronco has played against ONE ranked bowl opponent, and the most prestigious bowl he has attended is the Las Vegas Bowl. Most sportwriters rank BYU’s bowl games in the lower half of all bowl games for the last decade. It is more difficult to establish the strength of BYU’s bowl games in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s as such rankings were not common place during that era. However, I believe most would agree that a Holiday Bowl in the 1980s was more prestigious than the Las Vegas Bowl in the 2000s.

Winner: LaVell

Bronco vs. other comparable (relatively long-tenured) coaches

I couldn’t find a single article online that listed all D1 coaches Bowl Records, so I looked up two comparison groups: coaches from the PAC12 and coaches from the Mountain West. I believe this is a fair comparison given BYU is currently situated somewhere between the G5 and the P5 (I could have substituted the Big12 for the PAC12). I eliminated all coaches without a comparable track record (haven’t coached at their schools for five or more seasons) leaving us with a fair small but decent sample.  A little skewed because coaches that aren’t successful get fired, so this is actually Bronco vs. other comparable D1 coaches who have been moderately or very successful. Compared to bad coaches Bronco has been a superstar.

Coach Team Years TO Bowl % W L W% Sig Bowl(s)
Bronco Mendenhall BYU 2005-14 10 10 1.000 6 3 .667 Las Vegas
Mike Riley Oregon St. 97-98, 03-14 13 8 .615 6 2 .750 Sun
Kyle Whittingham Utah 2005-14 10 8 .800 7 1 .889 Sugar*
Mike Bellotti Oregon 1995-2008 14 12 .857 6 6 .500 Fiesta
Jeff Tedford Cal 2002-12 11 8 .727 5 3 .625 Holiday
Mike Stoops Arizona 2004-11 8 3 .375 1 2 .333 Holiday
Troy Calhoun Air Force 2007-14 8 7 .875 3 4 .750 Armed Forces
Chris Petersen Boise St. 2006-13 8 8 1.000 5 3 .625 Fiesta (x2)*
Pat Hill Fresno St 1997-2011 15 11 .733 4 7 .363 Silicon Valley
Sonny Lubick Colorado St. 1993-2007 15 9 .600 3 6 .500 Liberty
Rocky Long New Mexico 1998-2008 11 5 .454 1 4 .250 Las Vegas
Joe Glenn Wyoming 2003-08 6 1 .167 1 0 1.000 Las Vegas

*Wittingham technically coached the 2004 Fiesta Bowl team after Urban Meyer left following the regular season. Chris Petersen didn’t coach his final bowl game at Boise State (a Hawaii loss), having left to coach at Washington.

First, simply finding a good comparison list was quite difficult. It is rare for coaches to coach more than five years at one school, and those do are either very good or the tradition of the team they coach is very bad. That there aren’t more coaches that fit this criteria tells us 1) that Bronco’s long tenure at BYU shows his value to the program, and 2) Bronco hasn’t done enough to be promoted to a stronger program (a la Chris Petersen, Rocky Long). I believe this is a good sample of coaches similar to Bronco and their bowl game statistics are quite telling. Of the coaches similar to Bronco:

  • Most go bowling most of the time
  • Most of them play in bowl games similar to BYU (Sun, Las Vegas, Holiday)
  • Most of them win most of their bowl games

So Bronco is doing almost exactly what other comparable coaches at comparable schools are doing.

Winner: Bronco*

*Bronco beats the average of comparable coaches, but Kyle Wittingham and Chris Petersen are the true winners of this group.

miami_beach_bowlThe 2014 Miami Beach Bowl

Despite a less than stellar 2014 season, BYU’s bowl matchup is a pretty good one. Memphis is co-champion of a pretty good AAC conference. The Miami Beach bowl is a fun vacation desination but removed from BYU’s fan base. Bill Connelly of SB Nation ranked BYU #6 (out of 39) in the bowl “watchability” rankings due to an even matchup between two exciting teams. Someone must have forgotten to tell him that the game was being played on a workday afternoon. It should be a good game, but will this game change Bronco’s post-season legacy?

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