PROVO, Utah -- While many in Utah were surprised by the announcement Friday that BYU football head coach Bronco Mendenhall was leaving the Cougars, at least one former player said he wasn't surprised by the move and added that Mendenhall had turned down an offer from UCLA in recent years.
Michael Alisa played under Mendenhall as recently as 2014 as a runningback and linebacker. He spoke to FOX 13 News after the announcement that Mendenhall had reached a 5-year deal with the University of Virginia.
“I saw this coming,” he said. “It’s just interesting to see where he was going, but, not a lot of people know this—I don’t know if they know this—but Bronco actually got an offer from UCLA a couple years back that he let the team in on, and it was, you know, a couple times, double, what he was making at BYU. And he turned it down, and that’s just the kind of coach that Bronco was."
Alisa said he was grateful for Mendenhall’s decision to stay with the Cougars after that offer.
“He felt like he had something special to do at BYU, and I feel like he worked really hard to try to create an environment there that he believed needed to be there for the kids, and I know it was very difficult: It takes a lot of work to do something like that,” Alisa said.
Alisa said he isn’t surprised to see Mendenhall move on after 11 years with BYU.
“What he’s doing now, I don’t want to use the term ‘a long time coming’, but I think that’s just the way of a coach’s life,” he said. “He interviewed with other schools and was planning on going somewhere else anyway.”
Alisa said he thinks the move will be good for his former coach and for the football program at University of Virginia.
"I'm happy for Bronco, I think that, in maybe some circles, Bronco wasn't fully appreciated as a head coach," he said. "...Most level-headed fans, I think, understood that Bronco is a great defensive-minded coach and a great coach.... Virginia fans are really excited to get him. They see him for what he is and for what he will offer their program."