2021 BYU Cougars
|Athletic director||Tom Holmoe|
|Head coach||Kalani Sitake|
|7th year, 56–21 (.727)|
|Home stadium||LaVell Edwards Stadium|
|Stadium surface||Natural grass|
|All-time record||484–369–26 (.565)|
|Postseason bowl record||12–17–1 (.417)|
|Claimed national titles||1 (1984)|
|Consensus All-Americans||Template:American college football All-Americans|
|Colors||BYU Blue and White
|Fight song||The Cougar Song|
|Mascot||Cosmo the Cougar|
|Marching band||The Power of the Wasatch|
The BYU Cougars football team represents Brigham Young University located in Provo, Utah. The Cougars are part of the NCAA Division I-FBS independent schools, having previously been a member of the Mountain West Conference. The Cougars football team won the national championship in 1984 and have a Heisman Trophy winner in veteran NFL QB Ty Detmer. Since 1965, BYU has claimed 23 conference championships and played in 30 bowl games. The Cougars became the fourth Football Bowl Subdivision Independent on July 1, 2011. The Cougars play their home games at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo and are currently coached by Kalani Sitake.
- 1 Seasons
- 1.1 2020s
- 1.2 2010s
- 1.3 2000s
- 1.4 1980s
- 1.5 The early years
- 1.6 LaVell Edwards from 1972 to 1983
- 1.7 1984 National Championship
- 1.8 Edwards from 1985 to 2000
- 1.9 Gary Crowton era (2001–2004)
- 1.10 Early Bronco Mendenhall era (2005–2010)
- 1.11 Bronco Mendenhall & Independance
- 2 Logo/Uniforms image gallery
- 3 Notable Alumni
- 4 External Links
- 5 References
The early years
BYU Football made a brief appearance at Brigham Young Academy in 1896, but was discontinued in 1903. It did not get its official start at Brigham Young University until 1922. The team struggled during the first couple of seasons, but in 1928, BYU hired G. Ott Romney, who gave the school its first winning seasons.
Ott Romney and Eddie Kimball ushered in a new era in Cougar football in which the team went 65–51–12 between 1928–1942. In 1932, the Cougars posted a 8–1 record and outscored their opponents 188-50, which remains one of the school's finest seasons on record. Also, it was during this era that they first beat the Utes from the University of Utah. Since 1922, they had gone 0–17–3 against them. In 1942, BYU finally broke through and beat the Utes by a score of 12–7 in Salt Lake City. The university did not field a team from 1943–1945 due to World War II. In 1949, under coach Chick Atkinson, the team suffered its only winless season, going 0–11.
Both Kimball (34–32–8) and Romney (42–31–5) finished their respective terms as head coach with winning records, and they are joined by LaVell Edwards, Gary Crowton and current head coach Bronco Mendenhall as the only coaches to do so. In 1975, Kimball and Romney were inducted into the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame.
Slowly, the program improved and began to again show some signs of life. Head coach Hal Kopp engineered back-to-back winning seasons in 1957 and 1958, led by southpaw quarterback Jared Stephens and the ferocious nose tackle Gavin Anae. For the first time in its history, the University made a real commitment to football. In 1964, Cougars' stadium was built and had a capacity of 30,000. Also, in 1961, BYU experienced national success when Eldon "The Phantom" Fortie was honored as the school's first All-American as a running back. His #40 was retired by BYU to honor his accomplishments. In 1965 Virgil Carter was honored as the first quarterback from BYU to be selected first team All-Conference. The biggest accomplishment of this era was in 1965 when Head coach Tommy Hudspeth led the Cougars to their first conference championship with a record of 6-4. Coach Hudspeth retired in 1972 and finished with a record of 39–42–1. Despite not finishing with a winning record as head coach, he did lead the Cougars to 3 winning seasons between 1965 and 1967 with a great offensive line anchored by all-conference tackles Adam Johnson and Matt Shumway.
The mid-1960s saw the introduction of the "Y" on the Cougars' helmets. The 'Y' had become the symbol of the university after only the 322-foot-high letter 'Y' of 'BYU' was constructed in 1907, overlooking the campus on what is now called Y Mountain.
LaVell Edwards from 1972 to 1983
Soon after he was named head coach (in 1972), LaVell Edwards revamped the Cougar offensive attack. While everyone else in college football was using run-heavy offenses such as the veer and wishbone, Edwards and his staff installed a drop-back passing game. This was considered by many experts to be the early implementations of the West Coast offense. Ironically, in its first year, the new offense produced the nation's leading rusher in Pete Van Valkenburg, who ran for 1,386 yards. In 1973, Gary Sheide took over as quarterback and the Cougars struggled to a 5-6 finish. This would be the only time that Edwards would have a losing season during his run as BYU coach. In 1974, Sheide led the Cougars to their first conference championship under Edwards, including a 21-18 victory over Arizona State, ending the Sun Devils domination of the WAC; however, the following year (1975) the Sun Devils would once again claim another WAC Championship. The Sun Devils would not claim the WAC Championship in 1976 (in which BYU was the lone Champ) but ended the following season (1977) sharing the Conference Championship (co-champs) with the Cougars. This was ASU's last year as a member of the WAC, having accepted an invitation to join the then PAC 8 for the 1978 season.
A new era dawned in Provo, in which BYU began excelling in football with consistent winning. BYU finished in a tie for the conference championship in both 1976 and 1977 leading to a string of outright WAC titles that lasted from 1978-1985. However, they lost their first four bowl games. In 1980, they appeared to be on their way to their fifth consecutive bowl loss, trailing SMU 45-25 with four minutes left in the Holiday Bowl. During these final four minutes, the Cougars scored 21 points to upend the Mustangs and record one of the greatest comeback wins in college football history. BYU would win their 1981, 1983 and 1984 bowl games as well. The new era also led to success against rival Utah. Up until 1964, the Cougars were 2-34-4, but from 1965 to 1992, the Cougars were 22-6 against the Utes.
BYU also produced several All-American quarterbacks during this time and earned the nickname "Quarterback U." Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon and Steve Young were all named first team All-Americans. BYU had several quarterbacks that came close to winning the Heisman Trophy, including Steve Young, who finished second in the race in 1983 to Nebraska's Mike Rozier, and Jim McMahon, who finished third in 1981 behind Marcus Allen of USC.
1984 National Championship
In 1984, BYU was declared NCAA Division I-A national champions. The undefeated Cougars (12-0-0) opened the season with a 20-14 victory over Pitt, ranked #3 in the nation at the time and finished with a victory over the Michigan Wolverines (6-5-0). BYU defeated Michigan 24-17 in the Holiday Bowl, marking the only time a national champion played in a bowl game before New Year's Day. Coupled with the 11 consecutive wins to close out the 1983 season, BYU concluded the 1984 championship on a 24-game winning streak.
Several college football pundits (including Barry Switzer and Bryant Gumble) argued that BYU had not played a legitimate schedule and thus should not be recognized as national champion. Nonetheless, at the end of the season, BYU was a unanimous choice for the number-one ranking in both the AP and UPI polls. The team is the most recent national champion that is not a current member of the Bowl Championship Series coalition.
Winning the national championship opened new windows of opportunity for BYU football. The growing success of the program, and increased national exposure brought recognition to BYU athletes. In 1985, Robbie Bosco finished third in the Heisman balloting. In 1986, defensive lineman Jason Buck became the first BYU player ever to win the Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the top interior lineman in all of college football. In 1989, offensive lineman Mo Elowonibi also won the Outland Trophy.
Edwards from 1985 to 2000
Between 1989 and 1996, BYU won at least a share of the conference championship each year except 1994. Ty Detmer quarterbacked the Cougars from 1988 to 1991, during which Detmer threw for 16,206 yards and 127 touchdowns (including bowl games) while setting 59 NCAA records and tying for three others. During that time period, BYU played difficult schedules consisting of match-ups against traditional college football powers, including Miami, Florida State, Penn State, Iowa, UCLA, Oregon, Texas, and Texas A&M. Detmer's tenure at quarterback also saw the Cougars achieve their first victory over a top-ranked team when they defeated the #1 Miami Hurricanes early in the 1990 season. The 1990 season culminated with Detmer also providing BYU its first and only Heisman Trophy winner.
In 1996 BYU produced arguably its best team ever. With Steve Sarkisian as the Quarterback, the team completed the longest season in modern-day college football history by playing in 15 games in one season. Starting off with a victory over Texas A&M in the Pigskin Classic, the Cougars only loss that regular season was at Washington. (Sarkisian is now the head football coach of Washington)
In 1996 the WAC expanded to a 16-team conference by adding Rice, TCU, SMU, Tulsa, San Jose State and UNLV. After winning their division by going undefeated in conference play, the #7 ranked Cougars faced #20 Wyoming in the first ever WAC Championship Game in Las Vegas. BYU defeated the Cowboys in overtime and earned a bid to play in the Cotton Bowl, in Dallas, Texas, on January 1, 1997. It was the BYU Cougars first ever New Year's Day bowl game and their opponent was #14-ranked Kansas State of the newly formed Big 12 Conference. Although the Cougars had a high powered offense led by quarterback Steve Sarkisian, the game was a defensive struggle. Sarkisian connected with K.O. Kealaluhi for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give BYU a 19-15 lead. Kansas State, however, was driving with time winding down in the game. With less than one minute left, BYU defensive back Omarr Morgan tipped a Wildcat pass to himself for an interception inside the 5-yard line, preserving the BYU win. BYU finished the season 14-1 and ranked #5 in both polls at the end of the season. BYU's 14 wins that season was the most ever by a Division I college football team in a single season until Ohio State tied that record with a 14-0 record in 2002. BYU returned to the WAC Championship Game in 1998 but lost to Air Force 20-13.
In 1999 after leaving the WAC along with seven other teams to form the Mountain West Conference, the Cougars won a share of the inaugural MWC championship. Just prior to the 2000 season, Edwards announced that it would be his final year as the program's head coach. That season, the Cougars struggled and found themselves with a 4-6 record with just two games left. Prior to Edwards' final home game, against New Mexico, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that Cougars Stadium would be renamed "LaVell Edwards Stadium." Before the game started, President Hinckley addressed the BYU players in the locker room and admonished them, "Don't muff it." The Cougars went on to dominate the Lobos 37-13. The season finale against the Utes was much more intense as the Cougars were trailing late in the 4th quarter, still deep in their own territory. On a fourth and thirteen, quarterback Brandon Doman found Jonathan Pittman on a Hail Mary pass. On the next play, Doman completed another pass to Pittman to put them in scoring position. Doman completed the comeback by running for the clinching score, winning the game 34-27, and Coach Edwards was triumphantly carried off the field.
Gary Crowton era (2001–2004)
Gary Crowton, serving at the time as offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears was hired to replace LaVell Edwards. The 2001 Cougars returned several key players including quarterback Doman and running back Luke Staley. BYU ran off 12 straight wins to open the season and were ranked seventh nationally in at least one major poll, becoming the first MWC team to go undefeated in conference and won the conference championship outright. Staley, however, broke his leg in their 12th game against Mississippi State. Walking on crutches due to his broken leg, he accepted the Doak Walker award, given to the nation's top running back, after compiling 1,596 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns. Staley's absence proved critical as the Cougars lost their last two games including their bowl game.
The 2002 season started with a big home win, but the Cougars struggled throughout the season and a loss to Utah in the season finale marked the first losing season in 29 years. The following year also saw BYU start the season with a win, but by the time the season was over the Cougars had suffered their second straight losing season. The Cougars were also shut out in the finale against Utah, ending their nation-leading record of consecutive games without being shut out, which dated back to 1975. In 2004, BYU opened the season with a victory at home over Notre Dame, however, the Cougars ended their season with a final record of 5-6. After leading the Cougars to their third straight losing season and posting an overall record of 26-23, Crowton resigned.
Early Bronco Mendenhall era (2005–2010)
Bronco Mendenhall, who had been brought into the program in 2003 as defensive coordinator, was named the next BYU head football coach. In his first seven years as a head coach, Mendenhall has earned 7th best winning percentage of all active coaches (.733). In his first season, Mendenhall led his team to a 6-5 regular season record when a weak defensive secondary cost the Cougars several close games including a 51-50 loss to nationally ranked TCU. Nevertheless, Mendenhall returned BYU to a bowl game in his first season and the team finished second (5-3) in the Mountain West Conference.
In 2006, the Cougars lost two early non-conference games to opponents from BCS conferences: one to Arizona on a last minute field goal and another to Boston College in double overtime. After that, the Cougars went on to run the table in their first seven conference games and set up a regular season finale at rival Utah. BYU jumped out to a 14-0 lead and was again driving until John Beck fumbled on a third-and-short play and the Cougars were forced to punt after recovering the fumble. In the second half, Utah jumped out to a 24-14 lead, but BYU responded in the fourth quarter with a pair of Beck touchdown passes. Utah scored again to take a 4-point lead with just over a minute left to play. The Cougars final play would take 13 seconds before Beck, as he was being hit, falling through the air, with his momentum carrying him the other direction, found Jonny Harline all by himself clear across the field. Harline caught the ball on his knees in the endzone at the opposite side of the field, giving BYU a 33-31 victory. The Cougars would then go on to dominate the Pac-10 Oregon Ducks in the Las Vegas Bowl, 38-8. The win was the largest margin of victory for BYU in their bowl game history, and it marked BYU's first bowl win since the Cotton Bowl Classic on New Year's Day 1997, ten years earlier. The Cougars finished the year 11-2 (8-0 in conference), and ranked 15th in the nation, their first top-20 ranking since 2002.
The Cougars started the 2007 “rebuilding” season with unproven redshirt sophomore quarterback Max Hall—a transfer from Arizona State. As in 2006, the team opened with two early losses to non-conference opponents. However, to fans delight the squad went on to run the table the rest of the way, winning nine straight games to finish the season 10-2 with their second consecutive undefeated conference title. In what was once again a hard-fought game against Utah, who were riding their own nine-game winning streak, BYU seized the win with about a minute left on the game clock after Hall completed a 49 yard pass to Austin Collie from the BYU 12 on 4th & 18, which was followed by a Harvey Unga touchdown. The Cougars played UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl and preserved the win on a last-second field goal block by freshman defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuma.
In 2008, Mendenhall's team went 10-3 which marked the 3rd consecutive 10 win season for the Cougars. Notable games in the 2008 season included the historic 59-0 shutout of UCLA (UCLA's worst loss since 1929), and a 28-27 victory over the Washington Huskies in Seattle, thanks to BYU's defense blocking a last-second extra point attempt. With those two victories, BYU's 2008 season began with an undefeated record against non-conference opponents, including all BCS opponents. BYU suffered a lopsided defeat to Top-15 TCU, and again against Top-10 Utah, finishing with a 6-2 conference record. BYU lost the Las Vegas Bowl to Arizona, 31-21.
The 2009 season for BYU began against 3rd ranked Oklahoma at the new Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas. The field was supposed to be neutral, but nearby Oklahoma supplied the vast majority of the 75,000+ fans in attendance. The scoring opened with Ryan Broyles catching a touchdown pass from 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford from eight yards out shortly after BYU had dropped a punt return. In the second quarter, quarterback Max Hall answered with a touchdown pass to Andrew George to tie the game at 7. Near the end of the first half Sam Bradford was knocked out of the game by Colby Clawson and Oklahoma had to settle for a 35 yard field goal and went up 10-7. In the 4th Quarter, Oklahoma drove down to the 1 foot line, but BYU's defense held strong, and Oklahoma settled for another Jimmy Stevens field goal, this time from 22 yards out. Then, Max Hall led the Cougars on a 16-play, 78-yard drive, culminating in a 7 yard touchdown pass to McKay Jacobson, to take the lead 14-13 with 3:03 remaining in the game. The Sooners had one more drive, but came up short on a 54 yard field goal attempt.
The Cougars would go on to finish 11-2 overall and 7-1 in MWC play, losing only to conference champion TCU in October in a game preceded by the first-ever visit to Provo by ESPN College GameDay. In the last game of the regular season, BYU defeated Utah at Edwards Stadium, winning in overtime on a pass from Hall to George across the middle of the field. George just missed two potential Ute tacklers in catching the ball, enabling him to go untouched into the end zone. The Cougars rounded out the year with yet another appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl where BYU defeated Oregon State, 44-20.
In 2010, BYU began anew after losing quarterback Max Hall, leading rusher Harvey Unga and leading receiver Dennis Pitta, all of whom signed with different NFL teams. After fall camp, junior Riley Nelson and true freshman Jake Heaps were both given the job at quarterback for the Cougars in the hopes of a two-quarterback system, with Nelson deemed more experienced and with better leadership and Heaps more skilled and the future of the program. After BYU defeated Washington in the first game of the season, the plan seemed to be the right one, but the Cougars would go on to lose four-straight games. Following the team's fourth loss at Utah State, defensive coordinator Jaime Hill was fired. Mendenhall took over defensive coordinator duties while assigning defensive graduate assistant Kelly Poppinga as interim outside linebackers coach and moving Nick Howell, in his first year after long-time assistant Barry Lamb was forced to retire due to health issues right before the season, to coach the secondary.
With Nelson out with a shoulder injury suffered in the third game of the season at Florida State, Heaps started the last 10 games of the season. The second true freshman to ever start at quarterback for BYU, Heaps finally helped lead BYU to its second win of the season at home against San Diego State. After falling the following week at No. 4 TCU, the Cougars went on to reel off four consecutive wins, including a victory at Colorado State that saw senior wide receiver Luke Ashworth tie a BYU record with four receiving touchdowns in one game, all in the first half.
Despite holding Utah scoreless through three quarters, BYU lost to the Utes after a last-second field goal attempt by the Cougars was blocked. Finishing the regular season 6-6, BYU was invited to play in the New Mexico Bowl against former WAC foe UTEP. BYU had no problem with the Miners, cruising to a 52-24 victory as Heaps was named Offensive MVP and senior safety and team captain Andrew Rich named the Defensive MVP.
Following the season significant coaching changes took place, the Cougar coaching staff changed after offensive coordinator Robert Anae was replaced by QB coach Brandon Doman and wide receivers coach Patrick Hickman was dismissed for former BYU and CFL great Ben Cahoon only months after leading his team to a CFL Championship. Mendenhall also named interim outside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga to a permanent position on the staff, switched assistant head coach Lance Reynolds from running backs coach to tight ends coach and adding special teams duties to secondary coach Nick Howell. In addition, Joe DuPaix was hired from Navy to coach the running backs and take over as recruiting coordinator while just a short time before. During this Offseason Mendenhall also declined a 12 year contract extension for an extension that will last through the 2013 season.
Bronco Mendenhall & Independance
Frustrated with the lack of TV coverage and poor football competition in the Mountain West Conference, on September 1, 2010, BYU stepped a new direction when it announced it would begin competition as a football independent starting in the 2011 season. BYU also enjoyed the first of an 8 year contract with ESPN in which 11 games were broadcast on one of the ESPN networks. This new contract also gave BYU the ability to utilize its on-campus state of the art broadcasting facilities and nationally syndicated station - BYUtv.