Yesterday afternoon, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced a radical change: for the upcoming season, the Cougars' jerseys' nameplates would be replaced with either "tradition," "spirit," or "honor," or what Mendenhall calls the core values of the program. Well, the players weren't happy.
The players had no idea this was coming. They showed up at the practice facility for team photo day, and were stunned to find the uniforms hanging in their locker.
“I haven’t told them or anyone else. I haven’t addressed it yet,” the coach said Thursday afternoon. “It will be interesting to see what they think.”
Here's the thing: wearing a jersey with your name on the back is awesome. It's yours. You make a great play, and jog off the field, and know that 65,000 screaming fans are screaming for you. Most football players don't get jersey names in high school, even at many big-time college programs. When Randy Edsall took the nameplates off Maryland jerseys, there was legitimate concern about how it would affect recruiting. So you can't blame BYU's players for being pissed. And pissed they were!
The Salt Like Tribune's Jay Drew gauged the reaction from the locker room.
BYU's Kyle Van Noy on jerseys: "I am not really sure how I feel about them yet."— Jay Drew (@drewjay) August 8, 2013
BYU's Van Noy: "One thing I have enjoyed about playing here at BYU is having the last names on the backs of the jerseys."— Jay Drew (@drewjay) August 8, 2013
BYU's Van Noy: "Not many people know that I am adopted. I am carrying a last name that is Dutch and means a lot to me."— Jay Drew (@drewjay) August 8, 2013
BYU's Eathyn Manumaleuna said fellow Polynesians on team are taking it hard. "We are proud of our last names, ask any one of us."— Jay Drew (@drewjay) August 8, 2013
BYU's Manumaleuna: "This is the way it is. Coach Mendenhall has the last say with things. We are going to have to [live with it], yeah."— Jay Drew (@drewjay) August 8, 2013
In his writeup, Drew noted that "several players with negative things to say about the change refused to comment publicly." A number of alumni, like Jordan Pendleton and Brandon Ogletree, had no qualms about taking their complaints public.
Well, Mendenhall heard his players (and more likely, the athletics office saw the reaction from fans and rivals). A team meeting was held after the photo sessions, and we don't know what was said, but we can guess—last night, Mendenhall announced that the "tradition," "spirit," and "honor" jerseys will be largely scrapped.
Talked to my team tonite. They want to wear tradition spirit honor on jerseys for homecoming only. Last names for rest of the year. PERFECT!— Coach Mendenhall (@BYU_Football) August 9, 2013
It is perfect, because the true core value of college football is compromise.