Former BYU Lineman Gustavson Helping Coach Mendenhall Establish Winning Team Structure
The Salt Lake Tribune - September 1, 2005 - By Patrick Kinahan


PROVO - A professional and college football coach in a former life, Tom Holmoe rarely talks shop with Brigham Young rookie head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

But the BYU athletic director hasn't been reluctant to pass along a few timely suggestions. One piece of advice has helped Mendenhall tremendously during his nine months on the job.

Holmoe, who coached with the San Francisco 49ers and at Stanford and California, hooked Mendenhall up with Paul Gustavson. A former BYU lineman, Gustavson is an expert in organizational behavior.

To Mendenhall, the first walk-on return missionary in LaVell Edwards' tenure is a vital cog for BYU football.

"There's no way possible that we could have done what we've done to this point here without his help and assistance," Mendenhall said.

Teaching a crash course, Gustavson has spent about 30 hours with Mendenhall individually and together with other BYU coaches. He plans to be in LaVell Edwards Stadium for BYU's season-opener Saturday against Boston College.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall is trying an organizational approach to help heal the Cougars' wounds and become a better leader.
(Paul Fraughton/The Salt Lake Tribune)

Based out of San Jose, Calif., Gustavson has been acting as a non-paid advisor to the athletic administration and the football program. After watching the Cougars suffer two consecutive losing seasons in 2002-03, he volunteered his expertise as a way to give back to the program.

"Organizations are perfectly designed to get the results that they get," Gustavson said.

In other words, as he saw it, something was wrong with the football program's structure. Gustavson backed off when former coach Gary Crowton wasn't interested, but made himself available when Mendenhall took over after a third straight losing season.

Holmoe advised Mendenhall to give Gustavson five minutes.

"He was one of LaVell's guys," Holmoe said. "There's certain things about management and leadership that are cutting edge. Every day he's building and helping teams."

Grappling with his new responsibilities, which included much more than teaching football, the new coach was open to help. The lessons have been invaluable.

"After a few minutes of sitting in that chair, I felt like I needed to talk to this guy," he said.

"It has been the most beneficial part of all the positive things we've done organizationally within the program to this point."

In simple terms, Gustavson helped Mendenhall become a better leader and, in turn, transmit his expectations to the players directly and through team leaders.

Gustavson's methods have impacted nearly every aspect of the program, from recruiting policies to adherence to the Honor Code and level of commitment to Mendenhall's rigorous demands.

Furiously keeping pace with the lessons, Mendenhall has read 12 books that Gustavson suggested. Gustavson also recommended "What is Strategy," an article from the Harvard Business Review, to which Mendenhall now subscribes. The material has provided him with a greater vision to achieve objectives and bring the team closer.

"It's opened my eyes," Mendenhall said.

During the losing seasons, especially over the last two years, BYU was anything but a team. The group was divided, mostly between offense and defense.

It destroyed team chemistry and shattered the concept of accountability to a greater cause.

"What he's trying to instill is first you're a BYU football player," Gustavson said. "Then, you're a quarterback or [offensive] lineman."

The cohesiveness actually started before the season began. Gustavson and his wife, Kris Anne, met with BYU football coaches and their wives for a two-day retreat in Park City the week before practice started last month.

Gustavson also encouraged Mendenhall to create a competitive advantage by doing similar things differently or better than BYU's competitors. Citing Southwest Airlines as an example, Gustavson said the company has flourished by using unique methods.

Fine and dandy, but another turnover does as much for winning as a bag of peanuts does for hunger pains.

"It's directly applicable to football," Mendenhall said. "If this program doesn't have the success I anticipate, those principles aren't to be questioned."