Gary Crowton Squarely on the Line

On the heels of Nebraska's football coach Frank Solich being unceremoniously fired after a "disappointing" 9-3 season, BYU president Cecil Samuelson's public support of his own head football coach, along with that of athletic director Val Hale, is admirable and timely. However, the unstated message between the lines seems obvious: Gary Crowton is on a relatively short leash to make coaching/player changes and significantly improve his record in 2004. His job is squarely on the line.

If Crowton wants to be a nice guy and keep ineffective offensive or defensive coaches who are clearly not producing excellence and the team suffers again, his job is on the line.

If Crowton doesn't make the right decisions about using the right mix of players that generate enough wins on the field next season, his job is on the line.

If Crowton and his staff cannot motivate and mold enough key players to step up and take charge of the team on the field and in practice next year, his job is on the line.

Finally, if Crowton doesn't recruit the right junior college prospects that are able to contribute effectively and immediately on offense and defense next year, his job is on the line.

All this begs two questions: Is it fair and is BYU's dismal two year record Crowton's fault? Rather than engage in a protracted debate about higher LDS mission ratios, the quality of recruited athletes during LaVell Edwards' final years and bad luck or timing, we simply submit a more proactive response: It doesn't matter anymore.

In hindsight, it is easy to assume the Monday quarterback role and declare authoritatively that Gary Crowton made some dumb play calling mistakes this season that cost BYU several close games. But that changes nothing. Crowton knows better than anyone else what his mistakes were and should know if he doesn't learn from them, his job is on the line.

Crowton is a good, empathetic, kind man who has steadfastly maintained the respect and support of his players and coaches during the past two forgettable seasons. But the commonly-used adage that "nice guys finish last" is also applicable now.

Now is the time for offseason moves and machinations by Crowton to ensure his 2004 season becomes a memorable one featuring the likes of USC and Notre Dame in the friendly confines of LaVell Edwards Stadium.

The Cougar football program is better served if Crowton retains his game-time role as head coach and hires a powerfully dynamic, highly respected and proven offensive coordinator from the NFL or college ranks to do what Bronco Mendenhall effectively did for BYU's defense in his first season. BYU needs new blood at this position; and the sooner the better for the Cougars recruiting efforts, especially with the JC signing period just weeks away.

The Cougars need complete makeovers in the coaching ranks for the quarterback, offensive line and wide receiver positions. The lack of improvement over the last two years is time enough to recognize change is needed now.

Here's an off-the-wall idea for Coach Crowton: You must lead with your strengths. Hire a top notch receiver coach with proven skills in teaching the receivers and tight ends how to become great receivers and route runners. Crowton can couple that with Mike Empey's exceptional skill in teaching both the receivers and tight ends how to become spectacular pass coverage blockers.

From a compensation standpoint, BYU is in the peanut category compared to other major football programs, but the allure and opportunity to be a coordinator or a coach for the Cougars still holds a lot of appeal for excellent young coaches looking to establish themselves.

Crowton needs to get the word out and tap into this national pool of coaching talent with the same intensity as recruiting top-drawer athletes. LaVell Edwards did the same with high caliber coaches some decades ago – LDS and non-LDS – who have come and gone from Provo to loftier college and professional distinction.

Indeed, there is no doubt Crowton has a lot on his mind right now. We still believe he's the right man for the job and that he will do the right thing for himself and the once-proud BYU football program.

With a fire raging in his belly and in the hearts and minds of his coaches and players, Crowton will likely have to produce a MINIMUM of 7-8 wins next year against the same high caliber of competition he faced this year to keep his job.

That's a tall but attainable order and it makes all the offseason decisions in the next few weeks and months that much more critical to the future of Gary Crowton and his family.

Nebraska's Frank Solich won't have problems finding another lower-level head coaching job with his "disappointing" 9-3 record that earned him a pink slip, but Crowton will have a devil of a time doing the same with three consecutive poor seasons at BYU.

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