BYU, Utah Begin MWC Farewell Tour
"I'm not a sentimental guy," Whittingham said in an interview with FanHouse earlier in the week. "My wife can attest to that. That's not in my makeup. You just move on. That may sound a little bit callous, but that's my mentality. Just take care of your business and move on."
Utah will be a member of the Pac-10 next year and BYU recently announced that it was going independent beginning in June 2011, a move that didn't sit well with the other members of the Mountain West.
Nothing either team does this year will count toward the Mountain West's attempt to gain automatic qualifying status, which is disappointing considering both teams are among the three current Mountain West schools ranked in the latest coaches poll.
Regardless of their ineffectiveness toward conference equality, both coaches have maintained that winning the Mountain West is their only focus and neither is looking at the last run through Mountain West opponents as a swan song. In fact, Mendenhall said that he's asked athletic director Tom Holmoe to try and continue the rivalry with Air Force because he has so much respect for the program.
However, not all the Mountain West coaches believe a relationship with BYU will endure. TCU coach Gary Patterson said his team would not play the Cougars after they leave the conference
"I hate to see them go because of the conference and because of the rivalry," Patterson said. "They asked me if I'd want to play them. Probably not. We pick games that we think perception-wise will help us win a national championship.
"I believe that BYU had to do what they had to do and I respect that. They did something as a university they felt like was better for themselves. But I think that's a tough road to hoe out there on your own."
Mendenhall said he knows there are some hard feelings about BYU's decision, which all but ended the Mountain West's shot at automatic qualifying status and took the conference's television station, The Mtn., out of a profitable Utah market. And Mendenhall knows that because of that, his team might face some harsh words from fans at Mountain West venues this season, including this weekend at Air Force.
"I'm not certain what to expect and really, I'm not sure there's anything I can do about it in terms of preventing it or preparing my team differently and helping them be ready for whatever circumstances that we might go into," Mendenhall said. "I would certainly hope that anyone who studied the situation would understand the reasons why we're going independent and would be supportive, but again, I can't really control it.
"I think the best approach is just as we continue to get ready to play is help our team get ready for as hostile environments as we can possibly through crowd noise, etc. And the best way to handle that is just focusing very diligently on our execution. I don't really have another answer for how to help them get ready for that."
Utah QB Situation Still in Flux
Whittingham continues to be mum about his starting quarterback for this weekend's game against UNLV.
Starter Jordan Wynn (right) suffered a sprained thumb during the first half of the season opener against Pittsburgh when he was knocked down and landed awkwardly on the digit.
"It was difficult for him to grip the ball," Whittingham said. "He played the rest of the first half and it stiffened up on him at halftime. It was really more of a factor in the second half than it was right after the injury in the first half. It was when he sat around for 20 minutes that it got a little bit stiff and wasn't able to function as well in the second half. His numbers were nowhere near as good in the second half as they were in the first half. But he's a tough guy and he wasn't going to come out of that ballgame. He was bound and determined to finish the game."
If Wynn can't go, backup Terrance Cain would be the Utes' next option. Cain started eight games last season before being pulled in the second half against Wyoming in favor of Wynn. Wynn led the Utes to victory and has been the starter ever since.
However, Cain played well against UNLV last year, completing 17 of 24 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns and rushing eight times for 22 yards and a score in a 35-15 win.
WAC Still Exploring Its Options for Expansion
WAC commissioner Karl Benson was disappointed but not deterred by this week's news that Cal Poly and UC Davis had opted to join the Big Sky Conference in football.
Cal Poly and UC Davis were two teams on the WAC's radar, but Benson knew that both schools were talking to the Big Sky and that both might lean toward that conference for financial reasons.
"It hasn't changed our timeline," Benson said. "There are still schools in the WAC footprint that we're focusing on."
Benson said the membership committee, which consists of the athletic directors of the six remaining WAC schools, has contacted possible replacements, but said they haven't made any offers and it was too early to identify those schools.