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PROVO — Aside from a few Internet nerds and a relatively small portion of the fan base, most of the diehards of college football teams don't stress – or even know about – recruits who choose other teams.
Most college coaches don't have to answer for recruits who reject their scholarship offers in favor of another school. It's a matter of which recruits a program signs and not any who got away.
But as usual, BYU is different.
With its religious affiliation to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYU obviously relies heavily on recruiting Mormon players. And each time coach Bronco Mendenhall loses top-tier LDS talent, all heck breaks loose among the BYU faithful.
The latest wailing and gnashing centers on Britain Covey, all 5-foot-8-inch, 166 pounds of him. Not only did Covey play high school football down the street from BYU at Timpview High, but he also had family members play for the Cougars. And yet, he blew off BYU and signed with hated rival Utah, for which he has become a dynamic punt returner and receiver as a freshman for the fourth-ranked Utes.
Eight months after last February's national signing day, Mendenhall still has to answer for letting Covey get away. During media availability two days after beating Connecticut, one of BYU's own, play-by-play broadcaster Greg Wrubell, asked Mendenhall about Covey. Even if the timing maybe was odd, the question was legitimate after Covey came off playing a significant role in Utah's impressive 42-point win over perennial national power Oregon.
"I would say we were in the mix," Mendenhall said. "It was not a position of need, nor can I say that we did a fantastic job or even a great job of recruitment. It came to the end, and we did make a clear declaration, and it became clear if we could move a player here or there we could free of a spot, so we worked hard. But too little too late is how I would describe what we did."
It was not a position of need, nor can I say that we did a fantastic job or even a great job of recruitment. It came to the end, and we did make a clear declaration, and it became clear if we could move a player here or there we could free of a spot, so we worked hard. But too little too late is how I would describe what we did.
–Bronco Mendenhall on losing Britain Covey
Now back to the actual reason at hand. If only it were that simple at BYU.
Unfortunately, for Mendenhall and future BYU coaches, some fans want blood when LDS talent turns down the church school. And it's time to stop it.
Given all the change in college football over the years, combined with the football program not being in a Power 5 conference, BYU no longer may be as attractive as it formerly was for some recruits. Nobody can blame a player like Covey, who plans to leave in the winter to serve a church mission, for jumping at the chance to stay home and play in the Pac-12.
Mendenhall's program should be judged by the players in it, and also include how well the coaches develop the talent they get.
As recruits usually do at the time, Covey made the best decision for him. It came, he said, after much prayer and deliberation.
And yes, as a self-admitted diehard BYU his whole life and with "me being 20 seconds away from BYU," he was well aware of the fallout."When I was in my ward after I made the decision it was funny to see people's reactions," he said. "At the end of the day, it's the best fit for you, and it's not just with football. I love the environment up here. I love being able to be a little bit different than some of the guys. I just feel like this program and this environment really fits my personality.
"I love it up here. I feel like everything that I was told in the recruiting process has come true. Coaches weren't blowing smoke or making empty promises. I know I made the right decision."