‘I miss it and I loved it’: Brandon Doman reflects on time at BYU
At one time, Brandon Doman was the odds-on favorite to become the next head coach at BYU. After being let go from the program in 2012, you may be surprised to learn what he has been up to.
PLEASANT GROVE — There was a time when many believed that Brandon Doman was destined to become the head football coach at BYU.
That never happened. He was let go as the Cougars’ offensive coordinator following the 2012 season. After being such a key figure in the annals of BYU football as a player and assistant coach in the early years of this century, Doman dropped off the radar.
Doman spent eight years away from coaching, but now he’s is back on the sidelines, calling offensive plays for Pleasant Grove High, coached by Mark Wootton. The Vikings pounded Riverton 35-7 in their season opener on Aug 14 and followed it up with another victory last Friday.
So what has Doman been doing all this time away from coaching?
For starters, Doman and his wife, Alisha, have been raising their six children in Pleasant Grove. He and his older brother, Bryce, a former Cougar wide receiver, own various local businesses. And for the past seven years, he’s been serving in a Latter-day Saints stake presidency, after serving for the previous 18 months as a bishop.
“I look back at getting let go at BYU and some of the blessings that’s meant to be out of the coaching profession. I miss it and I loved it,” Doman said. “But I feel like I was fortunate. Spiritually speaking, I feel like I was looked after. The alternative has been a blessing. I’ve been able to be home and participate like I wouldn’t have been able to had I been coaching.”
And it’s his family that’s facilitated his return to football — two of his sons, Isaac and Jace, play for the Pleasant Grove team.
‘It’s been quite a ride’
As a BYU quarterback from 2000-01, Doman led the Cougars to a 14-2 record as a starter — he won his first 14 starts and earned the nickname “The Domanator” as part of a Heisman Trophy campaign in 2001 — and was part of some of the most memorable moments in the school’s football history, including a pair of dramatic, last-minute wins over archrival Utah.
Making Doman’s backstory even more compelling, he came to BYU as an option QB, then improbably rose from fifth-string on the depth chart, and spent time as a wide receiver, before assuming the starting role. He ended up throwing for 4,538 yards and 35 touchdowns and rushing for 624 yards and 11 TDs.
After BYU, in which he was a backup for a few seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Doman returned to his alma mater when Bronco Mendenhall hired him as the quarterbacks coach in 2005. With QBs like John Beck and Max Hall, the Cougars offense became one of the best in the nation. In 2011, Doman was promoted to offensive coordinator but after the offense sputtered for a couple of seasons, Mendenhall replaced Doman with his predecessor, Robert Anae, in January 2013.
Leaving BYU was painful for Doman, who has three brothers, Kevin, Bryce and Cliff, that also played for the school. At the time the program cut ties with him, he was six months into serving as a bishop.
A year later, Doman was offered the head coaching job at Weber State but turned it down, he said. (The position was given to current Wildcats coach Jay Hill). A month later, Doman was called into the stake presidency.
“It’s been quite a ride. It’s been a lot of church, for darn sure,” he said. “It’s been awesome. The two guys that I serve with are quite a bit older than me and they’re phenomenal men. We’ve become close friends and they’re mentors to me.”
A messy departure from BYU
How did Doman go from a rising star in the college coaching ranks to completely out of coaching in a matter of a few years?
Many projected Doman as Mendenhall’s heir apparent as head coach. Doman had the name, the pedigree and the charisma. And during his time as quarterbacks coach, he enjoyed remarkable success.
Doman admits he was among those that thought he might wind up as BYU’s head coach at some point.
“I always thought it would be a possibility,” he said. “I thought that maybe down the road, it might happen.”
As it turned out, BYU unceremoniously dumped Doman in 2012.
Five years later, a similar fate would befall Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer, who also spent two seasons as the Cougars offensive coordinator from 2016-17 under Kalani Sitake.
Near the end of that tempestuous 2012 season, which saw the Cougars use two quarterbacks, Riley Nelson and true freshman and highly touted Jake Heaps, BYU lost a game at Utah on a blocked field goal. BYU finished a lackluster 7-6 campaign with a dominating victory over UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl.
In Doman’s view, that season portended big changes in the program.
“I kid you not. I thought Bronco was done at that point. I thought that was the end. I thought he was ready to wrap it up for BYU football and maybe for coaching in general, but considering leaving BYU at that time,” Doman said. “I don’t know that for sure. That was my gut feeling at the time. That’s when I thought that at that point in time, if he were to leave, I would have the chance to be the head coach there.”
“I kid you not. I thought Bronco was done at that point. I thought that was the end. I thought he was ready to wrap it up for BYU football and maybe for coaching in general, but considering leaving BYU at that time. I don’t know that for sure. That was my gut feeling at the time. That’s when I thought that at that point in time, if he were to leave, I would have the chance to be the head coach there.” — Brandon Doman
But Mendenhall stayed and Anae took the offensive coordinator’s job at Arizona. And Doman was promoted to offensive coordinator at BYU in the Cougars’ first season as an independent program.
That may have been the genesis of Doman’s exodus from BYU.
During the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the Cougars struggled to score points and dealt with quarterback controversies and injuries. Nelson suffered a broken back and other injuries; Heaps ended up transferring to Kansas; Taysom Hill suffered a season-ending knee injury due to a play-calling mishap.
BYU boasted one of its best defenses ever in 2012, but the Cougars offense floundered for most of the season.
Frustrated by the ineffectiveness of the offense under Doman, Mendenhall decided to bring Anae back to Provo. But Doman was left twisting in the wind. He was offered the opportunity to remain at BYU, demoted to quarterbacks coach. Ultimately, though, Mendenhall decided to go in a different direction and hire another former Cougars QB, Jason Beck, as the quarterbacks coach.
Just like that, on a cold winter’s night in 2012, Doman packed up his belongings, walked out of the office. He was no longer BYU’s offensive coordinator and no longer part of Mendenhall’s staff.
It was a dark time for Doman.
“It was terrible. Nothing good about it. The whole thing wasn’t good,” he recalled. “I’ve learned a lot. As a business owner now, we have a good group of people that work here that we’ve had to hire and fire. I look back at that moment and I’m grateful for what I learned. There were a lot of things that (BYU) could have done differently in managing that circumstance.
“At the same time, it’s the coaching profession. It’s hard and you have to make decisions pretty dang quick. The head coach has to make a decision. You’ve got an athletic director and boosters, a lot of people trying to weigh in on the decision. That’s partly why I lost interest in that. There was some of that there that was disenchanting to me.”
It became apparent that the combination of Mendenhall, Anae and Doman wasn’t going to work anymore.
“Robert and Bronco had developed a rapport together. They continue to do a good job at Virginia,” Doman said. “There’s a comfort zone for Bronco and a very specific way that he wants to go about doing things. I think he had run his course there. He felt like he couldn’t get a complete buy-in from everybody. I don’t blame him. If you have nine assistant coaches, you want them all strong and complete buy-in from everybody.
“You want to be able to pull the team in the same direction. It was hard for Bronco to feel like the staff was his staff and that he could truly do it his way and have complete buy-in. He made the decisions he needed to to get complete buy-in and move forward. I don’t blame him for doing that for a moment. I look back and realize there are ways to handle those situations and they are never easy. But I sure learned a lot.”
Out of coaching, Doman second-guessed his decision to remain at BYU as long as he did as an assistant coach. While he was at BYU, he had offers to work elsewhere.
“Every time a job offer came, Bronco and I would talk through it. There were job offers on the table when I got hired as the offensive coordinator and Robert left. Had Robert not left at that time, I probably wouldn’t have been there. I probably would have been gone. It all happened the way it happened,” Doman said. “In hindsight, maybe for a football coaching career, I probably should have gone and taken another job. There were some in the intermountain region that were close by, that were good offers, like Colorado.
“There was a moment where the University of Utah was looking and I had been reached out to. In hindsight, maybe I should have considered coaching at Utah.” — Brandon Doman
“There was a moment where the University of Utah was looking and I had been reached out to. In hindsight, maybe I should have considered coaching at Utah. Colorado was looking for an offensive coordinator. That’s what happened to (current BYU offensive coordinator) Jeff Grimes. You go off and I probably would have been in a travel trailer for a handful of years, coaching at different schools, growing and developing as a coach and who knows what would have happened from there?
“All that’s hindsight. When I got fired, I thought that maybe I needed to go off and be around other coaches to learn from and reestablish myself and work my way back,” he continued. “But as time went on, I could tell that wasn’t my passion. That wasn’t the reason I got into coaching. I came to realize that wasn’t the path any longer. I loved BYU. I loved that place and I believed in what we were doing.
“I was so anxious to see us be successful. We didn’t quite get there but I believed that we could. I wanted to see that happen. There was a relentless effort to have that occur. Out of sheer desire to see BYU successful, I hunkered down there.”
Family ties and coaching again
Since leaving BYU, Doman has returned to LaVell Edwards Stadium a few times with his kids to watch games. He doesn’t have season tickets, but he’s taken his family to some games and he watches the Cougars on TV, too.
Two of his sons are playing for Pleasant Grove and they are the main reason why he decided to get back into coaching. All six of his children are adopted. His oldest, a daughter, is starting college this fall. Two sons, who were born the year he started his coaching career at BYU, are sophomores at Pleasant Grove.
“I have a Samoan son that’s a lineman. I have a son that’s a wide receiver/defensive back,” Doman said. “Both have a chance to play varsity this year.”
The Domans also have an 11-year-old son and a 9-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter.
His boys are crazy about football and, of course, dad shares with them his experiences at BYU.
“For the first eight years of my oldest sons’ lives, they didn’t know anything different other than going to BYU football games, going to bowl games, going into the coaches’ offices and grabbing a Gatorade. That’s what they knew, ” Doman said. “When I got let go, I started to engage wherever I could and help their little league football teams. They love football. I’ve tried not to force anything down their throats. My 9-year-old, it’s his first year playing. They’re all so different, which makes it fun. They’re well-aware and they’re way into it.”
These days, besides football, Doman keeps busy with his church calling and the businesses that he runs — Weigh Safe (which manufactures trailer hitches) and Home Sports (which sells basketball-related equipment).
‘My absolute best effort’
Most BYU fans will always remember Doman for the memorable moments and big plays that he was a part of as a player and the quarterbacks he developed as a coach.
“It was so fun. I have good relationships with those quarterbacks to this day. I’m grateful for those guys. John and Max specifically. Five of my eight years there I was with them. They were so good and our teams were so good during that time. It was a heckuva run,” he said. “The last three years were up-and-down. I’m grateful that I was able to be around those two guys. And I have memories of being around Riley Nelson and James Lark and even the experience with Jake Heaps.
“There was a lot that went into that, recruiting Taysom Hill to become a Cougar. There’s a lot that went into those eight years with recruiting. I feel like I did the very best I could possibly do there. That’s the other reason why I felt like I was done. I felt like I had truly given my absolute best effort and exhausted myself there. The players had done a great job and I had some great relationships. It was sufficient.”
Now, he’s back on the sidelines, calling plays again. It’s under much different circumstances than his time at BYU, of course, but he’s enjoying spending time in the game again — this time, with his sons.
“That’s been fun,” he said, “to be around my boys.”