5 min read



"Hey Jeff, you stupid moron! You said that Mark Pope wasn't going to go to Kentucky! You're obviously an idiot so why should we listen to you?"

It's a fair question. I've been wrong many times in my BYU prediction career, but this was the fastest and most dramatic wrong ever. Mea culpa, or something like that. I was wrong. Now he is gone and BYU is slowly bleeding out in the process.

"Yeah, you were wrong. Why should we believe you to be not wrong in the future?"

That's the prediction game, baby. Sometimes you get it wrong! But let's be clear about why I didn't think Kentucky would hire Pope. It starts with Wildcat fan reactions like this.

And this.

And this too.

You get the idea, right? Kentucky is - or was, or has been, or could be - one of the best college basketball jobs in the country. Wildcat fans expect to have the top recruiting class every year, to win a national championship every year, and to send a whole bunch of guys to the NBA every year. And if those exact expectations are not met then they will run you out of town and into Arkansas. There is no second place in Lexington. You either win it all or you don't belong. Plain and simple.

Because of that, I didn't expect Kentucky's search to ever find Pope. He's never won his conference - not the WAC, the WCC, or the Big 12. He's never won an NCAA Tournament game or a conference tournament. I didn't think that Kentucky fans or boosters would ever resign themselves to settling for a coach who didn't have the qualification of coaches past.

I do think Pope will succeed at Kentucky. He's a bright coach who will endear himself to that fanbase. NIL will handle the majority of recruting for him at Kentucky. He'll find success. Happy day for him.

But this is not a happy day for BYU. Dallin Hall has already entered the transfer portal, Aly Khalifa too. Pope will likely take Cody Fueger with him - the news that will get all of the headlines - but he'll take staffers and analysts with him too. More players might follow him to Lexington. More players still might simply leave BYU because the BYU they committed to is no longer BYU. Pope might be living his dream job, but he's the only one who gets to live his dream.

You'll have to forgive me if I stop short of thanking him and wishing him well on his way out the door. I get why he is leaving. I probably would do the exact same thing if I were in his situation. But I wouldn't expect thank you and well wishes from those I was leaving behind, that's for sure.

So what does BYU do from here?

Well, they probably don't move quickly, that much we can all be fairly confident in. At least not as quick as the roster can (and probably will) disassemble itself. BYU typically takes about two weeks to hire a head coach in football or basketball. They might be able to move a little faster in this search, depending on which direction, but it's still BYU and it's still going to take longer than any fan would like it to.

When they do finally make a decision, I'm fully anticipating it to be one of Chris Burgess or Barret Peery. If I'm making odds of which one of those two is the lead candidate, I'm putting Burgess ahead of Peery by a reasonable margin.

There are other names that are on lists - even lists I've written and published on different platforms - but I think those are mostly fluff names to fill out lists. This search likes doesn't extend beyond those two people.

Neither Burgess nor Peery would turn the opportunity to take over as the head coach of the BYU basketball program. They both understand BYU (especially Burgess). They understand what makes it a unique and special place. They understand what makes it a uniquely challenging job as well.

Burgess would do more in terms of keeping the roster together. He recruited many of the players that are both on the roster and in the BYU pipeline. He could re-recruit a lot of them and help keep BYU on the right track. He's never been a head coach, no, but neither have any of the realistic candidates on any BYU list - not at the Big 12 level.

Burgess would do an exceptional job inside the state of Utah. He is BYU's best chance at retaining the commitment of Collin Chandler. He would keep Brooks Bahr in the pipeline. He would secure a commitment from Dean Rueckert. He could potentially bring Jake Wahlin and Jaxon Johnson with him. Burgess is a dynamite recruiter, especially with recruits who are in BYU's traditional recruiting pool.

Peery could be great at BYU, who knows? He has a lot of support from influential folks inside the athletic department. There are some key boosters who also think very highly of him. There is also a chance BYU could land Peery and Burgess together if the cards went the right way.

But suffice to say, this search won't last beyond those two names. I haven't been that sure of anything since I was sure that Mark Pope wouldn't leave to Kentucky.

But in the meantime...

You can expect more transfer portal movement. Burgess (or Peery) will get hired and then it will be fun and excitment as BYU adds new names to the roster. But until then, expect the hits to keep on coming.

What will be interesting, though, is how many of them follow Pope to Kentucky. BYU had a nice roster who did some really solid things, but Pope is at Kentucky. You'll have to excuse me for not believing that Pope would roll with players like Noah Waterman of Fousseyni Traore at Kentucky.

But those players could still leave, there is no question about it. The BYU that they have grown up with is gone. They're starting over from scratch and they probably think they might as well get paid in the process. This is just the era of college sports that we're currently living in.

It's a shame, really. Being able to see a team grow up together and reach some kind of success as upperclassmen is probably over. Until something changes with NIL and the transfer portal, this is just the life that exists.

I have a hard time feeling bad that all of these players are leaving. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather BYU have Dallin Hall next year than not, but I'm just not that sad that he's gone. It has nothing to do with Hall himself. But when one player leaves, there is another looking for a payday who will fill his spot. At some point, all of the transfers in and out feel like a net neutral process.

Caleb Lohner transfers, Noah Waterman transfers in.

Seneca Knight leaves, Jaxson Robinson comes in.

Sometimes the transfers in are a little better. Sometimes they are a little worse. But in the end, it's more about how quickly a team comes together.

The players are becoming more and more transactional at this point. That can't be good for the game, but that's how it is. You have to really enjoy the name on the front of the jersey because the name on the back of the jersey is written with an Expo marker.

So expect more players to leave. Atiki, Waterman, Traore, Robinson, Richie Saunders, and just about everyone else on the roster could leave and it wouldn't be very surprising. Different players will come in and we'll all hope that they come together quickly like Utah State's roster did this year.

This is the sport we (allegedly) still love.