Bronco Mendenhall kept defensive back Joe Sampson and star receiver Cody Hoffman out of the fifth consecutive practice today for disciplinary reasons. He has indicated that their status is day-to-day depending on their meeting specific criteria. He has also reserved judgment regarding when they have satisfied the criteria to his sole discretion.
When it comes to disciplining players, I can't help but think of Reeves Nelson's stint with the UCLA basketball program. For those of you who don't know or remember the story, Nelson was a star player who terrorized teammates below him on the social ladder, including freshman Matt Carlino (who quickly transferred to BYU (thank you, Reeves)), and eventually challenged coaches themselves by openly defying team rules. He was kicked out of the program in December 2011.
Here is the thing I find interesting about the story. Then-current UCLA players claimed that the problem stemmed from head coach Ben Howland's unwillingness to discipline star players. They said Howland let Nelson have his way, including breaking rules, and that - most disappointingly - Howland's behavior had not changed toward the top players still in the program. Nelson and his mother later said basically the same thing, admitting that, although Nelson should bear full responsibility for his actions, they wished Howland had enforced discipline before small problems became large. They wished he had taken action before removing Nelson from the team was the only option left.
As far as I can tell, Hoffman and Sampson are nowhere near Reeves Nelson types, but they are both established, and Hoffman is unquestionably a star. Regardless of the school, player, or coach involved, it takes commitment to discipline players who are high in the pecking order.
I don't know what Hoffman and Sampson's offenses were. I assume they were small, but I am grateful for their sakes and for the sake of the program that Mendenhall prefers fixing small problems to having large ones. Those of us who remember what BYU football was like when Bronco became boss can at least thank him for that.