Saturday, January 28, 2006

We Appreciate Your Concern, But. . .

I mentioned in my first post of this blog that I didn't completely agree with Gordon Monson's article about Stanley Havili. In line with the Salt Lake Tribune's penchant for taking the glass-is-half-empty view of anything regarding BYU, Monson looked to have Cougar fans thoroughly wring their hands over the loss of Havili to USC. He blamed it on the state of the program, concluding that, "Three straight losing seasons, followed by an unconvincing 6-6 year, during which new coaches were attempting to learn on the run likely wasn't - and isn't - the best sell for top recruits, even top LDS recruits."

Bronco Mendenhall is of course looking to sell the entire BYU package: spirituality, academics, and athletics (see Dick Harmon's Deseret News article) rather than the current won-loss record. And, what do you know--some top athletes are buying it. BYU was a consistent quarterback away from an 8-4 year, and I hope to see the day when great success nets BYU all the LDS players it recruits. Yet if that never happens, it unfortunately didn't happen in the Edwards era either. Quarterback Sean Salisbury made the interesting choice to go to USC when the Trojans offered anything but the quarterback-friendly environment that BYU did, for instance. Nevertheless, it's hard to argue that Mendenhall is currently losing the recruiting wars. Pete Carroll gets one from Utah, and BYU gets one from Carroll's backyard. Romney Fuga was the LA Times lineman of the year. Do you suppose Pete Carroll didn't want him? But wait, there's more: Stanley Havili's opinion that the pastures were greener elsewhere didn't deter another top Pac-10 prospect, Matangi Tonga of northern California, from susbequently choosing BYU either. Fuga and Tonga were looking at the same 6-6 record Havili was, so maybe there is more to it than the immediate success of the football program.

Why Havili went back on his supposedly firm decision to serve a mission is something I'd like to know. But there are certainly different levels of commitment, and different reasons for wanting to serve a mission. As Monson accurately pointed out, BYU wasn't really at the top of his list to begin with. It was reported well before Havili gave his oral commitment that he was quite interested in Iowa--and the fact that a kid from Utah was looking at a Big Ten school other than Michigan, Ohio State, or Penn State in itself says that perhaps his search criteria was unusual from the start. Surely the Cougars wanted Havili, as they would any top LDS player. But the fact that BYU is able to woo recruits away from their home schools and conferences despite a currently inferior athletic offering indicates that the loss of a targeted LDS athlete going forward will be the exception rather than the rule.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Congratulations to Women's Basketball

Congratulations to the women's basketball team for finally being recognized with a Top-25 ranking. The lack of a ranking for them had been a running travesty. Until losing at home to North Carolina State, they were undefeated, including a victory on the road at then-ranked UCLA. How does a team be undefeated, win on the road against a ranked team, and not get ranked themselves? They finally made people wake up by beating ranked Utah at their place for the first time in four years. It helps also that the team that beat them (by two points) is now also ranked.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Stanley Havili and More

Stanley Havili's decision to attend USC over BYU has been on my mind more than it probably ought to be. That plus Gordon Monson of the Salt Lake Tribune writing an article about him that I didn't completely agree with, joined forces with several other elements to cause me to decide to start this weblog. Among those elements are my passion for BYU sports in general, a long-held desire to write, and my wife's experience with her own blog.

My wife, who did not grow up in the Church and missed the "glory" days of BYU football, told me that if our son grew up and had the choice between playing for USC and BYU, she would be for him going to USC, based on the current state of Cougar football. My response to her was that if a kid is "all that", he was going to be a star regardless of what school he played for. I gave her numerous examples of guys that played for less than top-notch schools, yet did great things for their schools and ended up doing well in the pros. Among them were Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State), and Ben Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio). I also mentioned that it's yet to be seen if Stanley Havili will be as good as one Luke Staley, who did all right for himself at BYU.

Which brings me to the real point of this post: I believe LDS athletes should be using their talent for the benefit of the Church, which is best done representing the school that people recognize represents the Church. Ben Olson should be at BYU. I didn't think he'd play right away when he returned, because I frankly expected John Beck to be as good as Ben, with two years game experience to boot--I wish that expectation had been accurate. So I understood Ben's desire to go somewhere else where he thought he could play sooner, his stated lack of fear regarding competition notwithstanding--note that he didn't consider going to USC, despite their recent reputation for making good quarterbacks great. Whatever Ben is, he's not stupid. He wouldn't have played behind Matt Leinart and John David Booty, the guy who held the title of Best High School Quarterback his senior year, just as Ben had his senior year. Nevertheless, Ben should be at BYU, and not just because he had an obligation to the school that didn't get other quarterbacks to come because Ben had committed. He should be at BYU because his success should benefit BYU, which benefits his Church. Stanley Havili should be at BYU for the same reason. Haloti Ngata, who apparently was named All-American, should have been at BYU. So should JT (Johnathan) Mapu--glad to see JT Mapu on a mission, by the way. If these kids have the talent to go to the NFL from UCLA, USC, Oregon, and Tennessee, they will go to the NFL from BYU (see the number of players from BYU in the NFL in this article). If these kids would collectively pull their heads out of the sand and realize that collective talent wins football games--something that Gary Crowton could attest to in his first year, with a Doak Walker award winner, all-conference quarterback, two future NFL defensive ends and a tight end that started for a Super Bowl team the next year--they would realize that they could make BYU a great team, not just contribute to the greatness of other schools. It's a serious shame that they don't realize that.