PROVO — All season long, BYU coach Kalani Sitake has expressed his disappointment and frustration with the offense's inability to score points.
Monday, less than 48 hours after the Cougars’ season-ending 30-20 victory at Hawaii, Sitake announced that offensive coordinator Ty Detmer “has been relieved of his role as the team’s offensive coordinator” after two seasons of service.
The move signals Sitake’s postseason emphasis on trying to rebuild an offense that ranks No. 118 in total offense (325.2 yards per game); No. 123 in scoring offense (17.1 points per game); and No. 91 in passing offense (194.6 yards per game) out of 129 FBS programs.
According to the school, Detmer, the 1990 Heisman Trophy winner, and the rest of the coaches on the staff remain under contract. BYU will begin its search for a new offensive coordinator immediately, with the new offensive coordinator making decisions about who will be on the offensive staff next season.
Detmer has also served as the quarterbacks coach since 2016 and could stay in that role under the new offensive coordinator.
Monday afternoon, Detmer sent a message via Twitter: “Although I’m disappointed I won’t have the opportunity to turn things around as the OC, I’ll always be grateful to Kalani for giving me the opportunity to return to BYU and coach there. I want to thank those that have supported me through these past 2 seasons! I love the people I’ve been able to work with these past 2 years and wish everyone the best! At this time I don’t know what the future holds for our family but I’ll always be proud to be a Cougar!”
The remaining offensive staff positions are currently filled by offensive line coach Mike Empey; running backs coach Reno Mahe; wide receivers coach Ben Cahoon; and tight ends coach Steve Clark.
BYU finished with a 4-9 record this season.
Among the candidates to become the new offensive coordinator at BYU — former Utah offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick, who has been a consultant on this year’s staff; Fesi Sitake, the offensive coordinator at Weber State; and Oregon State offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven; Virginia quarterbacks coach Jason Beck; Paul Peterson, the head coach at Snow College; Southern Utah offensive coordinator Justin Walterscheid; former Montana coach Bob Stitt.
For years, BYU fans dreamed of hiring Detmer, who spent 14 years in the NFL, as the offensive coordinator. Prior to taking the job at BYU, Detmer served as head coach at St. Andrews Episcopal School, a high school in Texas.
Detmer was hired by BYU on Christmas Eve, 2015. A couple of weeks afterward, Detmer said he would be installing a pro style offense.
He added that the decision to return to his alma mater was something he considered carefully.
“With my age, I’m feeling like, if you’re ever going to do it, now’s the time,” Detmer said in January 2016. “Things fell into place and I felt really comfortable with coach Sitake and everybody that’s coming on board. You pray about it and you get those answers. I felt like it was the time.”
Detmer said then that he was fully committed to BYU.
“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t. I know what I’m getting into. I’m prepared to do whatever I need to do to see things continue to be successful here … I made the commitment to come here and be the best coach I can be. With that, you give up other things that maybe aren’t as important at this time.”
The Cougars posted a 9-4 record last season with quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams, who are now both in the NFL.
This season, due to injuries, the Cougars started three quarterbacks — junior Tanner Mangum, sophomore Beau Hoge and freshman Joe Critchlow. Critchlow started the final three games of the season.
Former Southern Utah and San Diego Charger quarterback Brad Sorensen, who now lives in Utah County, knows all about the challenges of running a pro style offense like the one Detmer has tried to install at BYU.
“The pro style offense is very hard for the quarterback. The quarterback has to set the protection, has to make changes at the line of scrimmage in the run and pass game, he has to make reads and make them fast. All that’s on his plate,” Sorensen said. “He has to know if they’re in the right play call before the snap and he has to read the defense. That is the pro style offense and it’s hard. It’s a very effective offense if you have the right guys, namely the quarterback, who really makes it go.”
What has been the problem for BYU?
“It’s two-fold. On any given play, you can have the right play call or the wrong play call,” Sorensen said. “Even if it’s the worst play call, a quarterback can still get you out of a bad play. You can have a bad play call and the quarterback doesn’t do his job. That’s what I saw a lot of this year from BYU. It’s been tough. There’s a high demand for the quarterback running that offense. He has to be sharp and know exactly what he’s doing. I don’t think it’s necessarily a scheme thing. The scheme is right. Ty Detmer knows football as good as anybody. It’s how well can your players play within the scheme? A lot of the offenses in college football today are very simplified. You hear that a lot before the draft — can this quarterback run a pro style offense?”
Sorensen said Detmer shouldn't be the only scapegoat for what went wrong for the Cougar offense in 2017.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things. To point one finger and say Ty Detmer was at fault this year, I don’t think that was the case. It’s multiple things. You add injuries and a very tough schedule, you start losing games and people start to panic," he said. "It’s a perfect storm that can spiral out of control. I like Ty a lot. I know him personally. I feel for the guy. I hope he can stay in the program. They can benefit from having him in the program. They haven’t had the chance to recruit the guys for their system. It’s hard to put all the blame on Ty but that’s what football is. That's what you signed up for when you become an offensive coordinator.”