Dear Independence... we love you but BYE
"Our vision is to play football games across the country against many of the storied football programs in their legendary stadiums, and to have those same highly-regarded programs return to Provo and play in LaVell Edwards Stadium."
That was the message that BYU athletics director Tom Holmoe delivered to BYU fans all the way back in 2010. Since then, BYU has played game against Texas, Nebraska, USC, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington. They have played West Virginia, TCU, Baylor, Washington State, Utah, Oregon State, Missouri, UCLA, Arizona, Michigan State, Arizona State, and Cal.
Today they will play Stanford in what will be the regular season finale of BYU's independence era.
Suffice to say, Holmoe's statement all those years ago has come to fruition. Never in the history of BYU football has the Cougars played teams like the names above with the level of consistency that BYU has played them during independence.
Independence has been great to BYU.
It is also great that independence is over. The Cougars will move to the Big 12 and play at least nine Power 5 games each and every year the foreseeable future. Independence helped BYU prepare for those level of schedules. It is still a step up, no doubt about it, but BYU is as prepared as any non-P5 who is making the jump up in competition has ever been prepared.
Independence is over but it wasn't a bad thing. Independence was a good thing for BYU. In fact, independence was a great thing for BYU.
Jesse Owens set the 200-meter record in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. 20.7 seconds. (There is a whole story to be discussed about running that time long before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, long before the death of Hitler in WWII, and in front of Hitler who had actively protested the inclusion of Black and Jewish athletes participating in the games, but that's not today's story.)
20.7 seconds became the standard for all 200-meter racers.
In those same games, Mack Robinson (the brother of one Jackie Robinson) also ran in the race. He also finished with a time that broke Olympic records when he finished with a time of 21.1 seconds. We never talk about Robinson because he ran in the same race as Owens. Had Owens not ran, Robinson would have been the world-record holder. Imagine those stories, eh? Jackie Robinson in baseball and Mack Robinson in the Olympics?
Robinson was asked about the difference between him and Owens in that race. For him, the answer was simple.
Owens was wearing a brand new pair of Adidas track shoes. In fact, the shoes were still prototypes during the race and not available for public purchase anywhere.
Robinson was wearing the same track shoes that he had always used. They were old, worn out shoes that he used at Pasadena College.
BYU is getting a new pair of shoes when they join the Big 12 Conference. It will be the edge that the Cougars need to push them ahead of where they were. As time progresses, the memories of independence will likely fade, much like the memory of Mack Robinson has.
Memories fade, but when you dig into the details, independence was still great, much like Robinson was still great back in 1936.
When BYU wraps up their game against Stanford today, take a moment to reflect on the good moments of independence. Like Texas twice. Like Tennessee. Like Wisconsin. Like Baylor. Like USC twice. Like the Boise State rivalry. Like so many other great games that took place over the last decade and change.
Independence isn't where anyone wanted to stay forever, but it was still great.
More Things From My Brain
I want to be clear when I say this: I don't know anything. I'm not reporting any news or trying to set any sort of expectations of exactly what will happen. This is important for anyone reading to note and to remember.
Without knowing anything for sure, it feels like the upcoming week will be one of the biggest weeks of news in BYU football's recent history.
Coaching changes, assuming they are going to happen, will likely happen this week. In fact, they could happen as soon as Monday. If we go back to the 2017 season, Ty Detmer was dismissed on the Monday following the season's final game against Hawaii. That feels like the timeline that any staff changes this year should happen.
That doesn't mean hires will happen. That doesn't even mean coaching changes will for sure happen. But the writing is on the wall and anyone with a first-grade reading level can read it. Changes seem inevitable at this point.
The most likely change is likely a defensive coordinator. Ilaisa Tuiaki is already not doing coordinator things on BYU's staff - Kalani Sitake took over those duties a few weeks ago. The reports (that, candidly, was an irresponsible, shock-jock type of report) that came out about Tuiaki trying to resign after the Arkansas game are already out in the public. (The notion that Kalani didn't accept his resignation is foolish. Kalani talked about coaching changes midseason immediately after that game, saying it wasn't how he liked to do things because it actually hurts the player more than anything. But hey, context doesn't sell.)
If Tuiaki is the coach that is dismissed, whether you agree or not, you can probably bank on the rest of the defensive staff being dismissed as well. That's just the nature of college football. A new defensive coordinator will be given the chance to hire his own staff. Some current coaches might be hired back, but they will have to be hired back.
Assuming a change is made at the defensive coordinator position, there are several names that I'd pay attention to as potential replacements.
Derrick Odum, SJSU DC - He played at Utah, coached with Kalani at Utah and Oregon State, also spent 10 years in Texas on the Houston and SMU staffs. He really checks a ton of boxes.
Jason Kaufusi, Arizona OLB/STC - Another former Utah player. He's got many, many ties to the program. He's spent time at Nevada, UCLA and Arizona in recent years. He isn't a coordinator, which would seem like a Kalani preference, but he is a relentless recruiter and is on the coordinator track, for sure.
Frank Maile, Boise State AHC - Maile has a ton of respect from everyone he's ever coached with and coached on the field. He's spent a ton of time at Utah State in his career in various roles on the defensive side of the ball, including coordinator and interim head coach. Now he's on Boise State's staff and doing big things in Idaho.
Chad Kauaha'aha'a, UCLA DL - Going into the Big 12 might be one step ahead of where Coach K's career is at right now, but he is going to be on the short list of any DC list in Provo. He's spent time at UCLA, USC, Wisconson, Oregon State and Utah. Is it likely? Probably not. But you can bet he's on the list of potential candidates.
Kurt Mattix, SDSU DC - This is the benefit of being in the Big 12 Conference. There aren't natural ties between Mattix and BYU (though, he was part of the Brady Hoke coaching staffs that went from SDSU to Michigan and now again at SDSU, so he definitely knows Darrell Funk), but BYU could offer him a substantial pay raise and a bigger platform than what San Diego State can. Mattix has done great things for the Aztecs.
Ikaika Malloe, UCLA DL/STC - Malloe is a name that I'm sneaky high on for this job. The former Washington DC is now at UCLA. He has spent the last season in Los Angeles after spending the prior five in Seattle. Before that he was at Utah State. He has coached at Hawaii and at UTEP in his career as well. The dude can coach a strong defensive line, is a solid and proven defensive coordinator (Washington was a top-35 defense in 2021 and Malloe wasn't retained by the new coaching staff).
We'll go in depth in all of the potential candidates if/when changes officially happen, but because the college football internet world is just a copy cat world of regurgitated names for coaching searches, I wanted to get some names out before everyone else so you know who the dog in the market is.