It’s been 10 years since Brigham Young athletics director Tom Holmoe’s had to scour the country for a head football, and even a decade ago he didn’t have to look very far before choosing Bronco Mendenhall back in 2005.
But even after Mendenhall (who amassed a 99-42 overall record, a peak No. 7 national ranking, and six major bowl victories over 10 years) was officially introduced as Viriginia’s new head coach, Holmoe told KSL.com he already has an excellent idea of who will next lead the Cougars.
"If you look around the country at all the candidates, I know all of them," Holmoe said. "I don't need a search firm to tell me who they are. The pool could be 40 candidates for a job such as Bronco's."
Holmoe’s scope was technically narrowed down for him immediately after Mendenhall let him know he was heading to Virginia. The Cougars are specifically seeking an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a prerequisite that cancels out many candidates around the country.
Yet, while the search might be smaller in scope, Holmoe does have a difficult choice to make from a number of qualified candidates.
Here’s five potential head coaches the Cougars may wind up hiring, and many have previous ties with BYU.
Kyle Whittingham, Utah
The Utes current coach has the right blend of deep ties to BYU, serving as an All-American linebacker during his playing days and would bring a strong defensive mindset just like Mendenhall. KSL points out that switching sides in the state’s biggest rivalry will cost Whittingham since the Cougars can’t afford to pay a new head coach as much as the country’s other top conferences. Utah has the benefit of playing in the very rich Pac-12.
Whittingham was originally in the running for BYU’s opening back in 2005, and proved successful with the Utes despite the snub, picking up a still active 93-46 record and 7-1 mark in bowls.
Lance Anderson, Stanford
Anderson is a LDS member, but otherwise has zero links to BYU. But his coaching acumen and success with the Cardinal make him one of the top candidates. He was promoted to defensive coordinator in Jan. 2014 after spending eight seasons as a linebackers and defensive tackles coach, playing a huge role in Stanford’s defensive dominance in the Pac-12. Considering he’s never held a head coaching position BYU could snatch him away from Stanford, or the Cardinal may give one of their most prized recruiters a raise.
Darrell Bevell, Seattle Seahawks
Bevell’s been among the mix of NFL coaching candidates the last couple of seasons as Seattle’s offensive coordinator, helping quarterback Russell Wilson flourish and the Seahawks pound opponents with their running game. He hasn’t left the NFL ranks since joining the Green Bay Packers as an offensive assistant in 2000, but Bevell hasn’t held a head coaching position either and might welcome the challenge even at the college level. Bevell could certainly flash his Super Bowl ring at recruits and according to KSL his wife’s parents live in the Provo area.
Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
Niumatalolo’s success at Navy, a job that typically comes with as many recruiting hindrances as BYU, makes him a solid choice and perhaps a leading candidate. His son Va’a is a sophomore linebacker for the Cougars, and he can certainly regale his teammates of his father’s 66-37 record and three bowl victories with the Midshipmen.
Furthermore, Niumatalolo’s put quarterback Keenan Reynolds and Navy on the national map this season, reaching as high as No. 16 in the national rankings.
Robert Anae, BYU
Mendenhall reportedly offered a recommendation for his replacement, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, and it very well could have been Anae. He earned bachelor, masters, and doctorate degrees in Provo, and has served as offensive coordinator since 2005 and rose to assistant head coach in 2013.