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.

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