Last Friday, BYU head coach surprised the college football world when he announced that he was leaving Provo, Utah to become the head man at the University of Virginia.
The abrupt head coaching vacancy at BYU has led to serious speculation about Stanford's director of defense Lance Anderson filling the position.
BYU is a unique football program with specific requirements for their head coach in all of their sports. The head coach at BYU must be an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormon church. Beyond that, the head coach must be committed to upholding the high standards of conduct expected from all the students at Brigham Young University outlined in the school's honor code. BYU also carries with it high academic standards, not as high as Stanford, but still a challenging expectation for classroom performance. Lastly, BYU has a tradition of winning football, so great, proven coaches are only considered.
BYU also has to search of a candidate who is willing to take the position for an estimated 1 million dollars per season. A salary that is significantly lower that comparable caliber programs.
All of this is to say, that the BYU search for head coach may be the most sparse, specific search in all of sports. The Cougars only have a handful of say, 5 candidates. And 2 of those candidates are probably unrealistic. Like Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid or University of Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham.
This all shakes out to mean that Lance Anderson is considered one of the top BYU targets, despite having no tie to the university except for his faith.
Anderson is attractive from a football standpoint for obvious reasons. He has been a great recruiter and was the recruiting coordinator during the best period of football in Stanford's illustrious history. Plus, Anderson has yanked several key LDS recruits out of the state of Utah to play for the Cardinal. His defensive prowess has been outstanding as his units have been amongst the top in the country.
The unknown aspect here is whether or not Anderson would be interested in the BYU job. He reportedly turned down the chance to join Jim Harbaugh's staff at Michigan when Harbaugh was hired in Ann Arbor last season, and perhaps Anderson is waiting for a shot at a head coaching job.
Without question, Anderson will be contacted by Tom Holmoe, BYU's athletic director with strong Bay Area ties. Holomoe is a former 49ers safety, 3-time Super Bowl champion, former Cal head coach, and former Stanford secondary coach.
Being the head coach at BYU is a unique. The LDS church strongly feels that their athletic programs are not only for the development of young men and women, but also for positive exposure to the faith. No person is more visible in that effort than the BYU football head coach. The position carries with it an extra weight and expectation religiously along with a one of a kind chance to provide service that Anderson may or may not be interested in.
The opportunity to be BYU head coach is also extremely rare. Since 1972, BYU has only had 3 head coaches. If Anderson wants the chance to be in charge in Provo, Utah -- it's likely now or never.
All in all, it means there is a real chance Anderson will move on from Stanford after nine seasons with the program. If that were to happen, where would the Cardinal look next as director of defense? Will it hurt Stanford's defense going forward or would it be the latest case of Stanford uncanny ability to simply rely on the "Next Man Up" mentality of David Shaw?