COUGAR TRACKS

20 Years Ago LaVell Edwards Announced Retirement As BYU Head Coach

Aug 24, 2020, 1:45 PM | Updated: 1:49 pm
LaVell Edwards - BYU...
Photo by Tom Smart/Deseret News

PROVO, Utah – It’s been 20 years since legendary BYU head coach LaVell Edwards retired as the Cougars head football coach. Time flies way too fast.

Edwards retirement is one of those things that feels like it happened yesterday. But also feels it was a lifetime ago with how much college football has changed since his retirement.

Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach, then at Texas Tech, said the following when Edwards retired in 2000, “Twenty years from now, his name will be mentioned with Bear Bryant and Vince Lombardi.”

Now that twenty years have passed, Edwards isn’t put in the same category as Lombardi and the Bear by national talking heads, but for BYU and its fans, there will never be a bigger legend than LaVell Edwards.

Edwards retired prior to 2000 season

Promoted from the defensive coordinator role on Tommy Hudspeth’s staff in 1972, Edwards coached at BYU from 1972-2000 becoming one of college football’s winningest coaches.

To this day, Edwards’ 257 wins put him in the Top 10 among FBS head coaches all-time. He ranks 22nd all-time in wins when including all divisions of college football head coaches.

Edwards announced his retirement prior to the 2000 season. It was a move that Edwards was mulling over for some time.

“Last winter I made the decision to coach for only one more season,” Edwards said in his retirement announcement. “I have been wrestling with the timing of announcing that decision. After seeing the outstanding attitude and work ethic of this team, I came to the conclusion that it’s best to get the announcement out of the way now so we can focus on the season and avoid the repeated distractions that come from questions about my retirement.”

Prior to the 1999 season, Edwards had considered retirement but some of the coaching candidates that BYU was targeting after Edwards were not available. Andy Reid was hired to be the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Gary Crowton committed to two years to the Chicago Bears organization as their offensive coordinator.

Then one year later, before the first season of the 21st century, Edwards called it a career. What a career it was.

LaVell Edwards career accomplishments

Edwards led BYU to 19 conference championships and 22 bowl appearances during his nearly three-decade tenure as the Cougars head coach. Highlighted by an undefeated National Championship season in 1984.

The success of Edwards’s tenure at BYU stems from a decision to pass the football while many programs around the country had run-heavy offenses.

BYU quarterbacks coached by Edwards rewrote the record books in college football. Jim McMahon set 70 NCAA records at the time he concluded his BYU career in 1981. Ty Detmer became the school’s first and only Heisman Trophy winner. Then there was Steve Young who is considered to be one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks of all-time.

In the 20 years after Edwards retirement, BYU has gone from the Mountain West Conference to become an FBS Independent and had three different head coaches in Gary Crowton, Bronco Mendenhall, and Kalani Sitake who is in his fifth year as BYU’s head coach.

Sitake, who was a member of Edwards last BYU team in 2000, became the first former player to play for Edwards to become BYU’s head coach.

In December 2016, Edwards passed away at the age of 86 after suffering a hip fracture.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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