Hope springs eternal for every sports team prior to the beginning of the next season, and BYU football is no different.
At media day on Monday, everybody from Athletics Director Tom Holmoe to the last player available for comment expressed optimism about the upcoming season and the chances for the Cougars to have a great year.
They said that overall team depth, conditioning and chemistry have improved. Robert Anae’s “go fast, go hard” offense is supposed to be fully implemented now, and Anae said they hope to add “go far” to the description. The defensive unit sounds poised to be brutally effective again.
You would hardly expect them to say anything else. After all, if they came out and predicted mediocrity, that would hardly inspire confidence or fill seats in the stadium, which is what all the preseason hoopla is supposed to do.
Both in the printed material distributed and in their comments, Holmoe and coach Bronco Mendenhall emphasized that the BYU football program has been consistently one of the nation’s best for the past four decades, as well as in the nine years since Mendenhall took over the head whistle.
Holmoe and Mendenhall also said they were pleased with what BYU has accomplished since the football program went independent three years ago.
Holmoe mentioned that more Cougar fans have been able to see the team play than ever before, both because of the travel and the increased TV presence. Mendenhall said the “broadened footprint” has helped recruiting and scheduling.
No one is quibbling with the numbers they trotted out, but it’s also true that last year’s 8-5 season did not fulfill anyone’s expectations, as the coaches and the players freely admitted during the direct interviews, nor did the 8-5 record in 2012.
Recent headlines have nettled Cougar fans when officials in the ACC and SEC power conferences announced that they didn’t consider BYU enough of a quality opponent to schedule them as their teams compete for berths in the new FBS playoff format.
Holmoe said that some of those teams are still negotiating with BYU to schedule games anyway, and Mendenhall said that statement did put a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. But he also had the perfect answer to those critics, as well as the ones in the Cougars’ own fan base.
“Playing great football and winning will solve those issues,” he said. “We want to play the very best teams we can on the biggest stages out there.”
Which would certainly fill the bill, if BYU can succeed at it. But it hasn’t happened yet.
Mendenhall was asked what his definition of success was. He said a 10-win mark with a top-25 finish and a bowl victory would be his “baseline.” He would consider anything beyond that to qualify as a “special” season.
It remains to be seen whether this version of the Cougars can produce even his defined level of success, much less go beyond it. But if the execution can match the voiced aspirations, BYU fans should have plenty to get excited about this fall.