COUGAR TRACKS

10 Moments To Remember From BYU’s WCC Era

May 24, 2023, 10:01 AM | Updated: 10:36 am

PROVO, Utah – The WCC era for BYU Cougars athletic teams over the past dozen years was quite the roller coaster ride.

BYU’s time in the WCC has effectively come to an end. It will be official on July 1 of this year when BYU joins the Big 12 Conference. Between now and then, there won’t be any WCC matches involving BYU teams.

BYU joined the WCC in 2011. The same year its football program left the Mountain West Conference to become an FBS Independent.

BYU took its basketball and Olympic programs to the West Coast Conference to take football into Independence. Initially, there was a plan to go to the WAC, but those efforts were blown up after the Mountain West suddenly added Fresno State, Nevada, and others.

So BYU turned to the WCC. A league with no football but had a makeup of universities aligned with BYU being faith-based universities. It was an unusual fit, but it worked out OK. Was it great? For the Olympic sports, BYU leveled up winning nine consecutive WCC Commissioner’s Cups.

BYU Cougars spent 12 years in the WCC

The time spent in the WCC from BYU served its purpose, eventually leading to joining the Big 12.

Here’s a look at the top 10 moments to remember from BYU’s WCC era.

10. Win over Saint Mary’s in the 2018 WCC Tournament

WCC Tournament Semifinals

BYU 85, No. 20 Saint Mary’s 72

Upsets are not common in the WCC Men’s Basketball Tournament. But in the semifinals of the 2018 edition, BYU pulled off a shocker defeating the nationally-ranked Gaels, led by a career-high 33 points from Yoeli Childs.

The following night, BYU fell to Gonzaga in the championship game.

9. Baseball swept WCC titles in 2017

BYU baseball in 2017 was determined to get to the NCAA Tournament after missing out in 2016. BYU won the regular season WCC title the previous year but finished fourth in the league tournament.

In 2017, they left the NCAA selection committee no choice but to take BYU. They claimed a share of the regular season title but then won the tournament championship that season by defeating Gonzaga.

BYU baseball has not returned to the NCAA Tournament since.

8. WCC Tournament Championships for BYU Women’s Basketball

2012, 2015, 2019

Unlike the BYU men’s basketball program, the women’s team experienced a tournament title in the WCC. BYU won three conference tournament championships in the 12 years competing in the West Coast Conference’s Las Vegas stage at The Orleans.

7. Three consecutive years of upsets over Gonzaga at The Kennel

2015: BYU 73, No. 3 Gonzaga 70

2016: BYU 69, No. 25 Gonzaga 68

2017: BYU 79, No. 1 Gonzaga 71

BYU was one of the few teams in the WCC that experienced rare moments of success against Gonzaga in The Kennel. During BYU’s time in the WCC, Gonzaga went from a lovable Cinderella to a national powerhouse.

Each of BYU’s three victories in Spokane was surprising, especially the 2017 edition.

In 2017, Gonzaga was undefeated and ranked No. 1. BYU was a 20-point underdog, yet they spoiled Gonzaga’s undefeated behind 29 points and 11 rebound effort from Eric Mika.

The victory is BYU’s only win against a No. 1 ranked team in program history.

6. Sweet 16 run for Women’s Hoops

2014 Women’s NCAA Tournament

BYU put together an impressive 2014 women’s NCAA Tournament run as a 12-seed. Led by Jennifer Hamson and Morgan Bailey in the frontcourt, plus sharp-shooting guard Lexi Eaton, BYU took down 5-seed NC State, then spoiled 4-seed Nebraska’s hopes of hosting Sweet 16 action on their home floor.

Instead, BYU advanced to the regionals in Lincoln, where they faced No. 1 seed UConn, led by women’s basketball star Breanna Stewart.

5. Women’s Volleyball plays for National Championship

December 20, 2014

NCAA Championships in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Led by All-American Jennifer Hamson, 12-seed BYU had a magical run to the National Championship round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. BYU defeated No. 2 Texas in four sets in the semifinals before falling to No. 5 Penn State in straight sets in the title round.

4. Historic comeback win over Iona in NCAA First Four

BYU 78, Iona 72

2012 NCAA Tournament, First Four

BYU’s first year in the WCC finished with an NCAA Tournament appearance. The Cougars received one of the “First Four” bids, lining up against Iona in Dayton. BYU was down 49-24 in the first half against the fast-paced Gaels.

But BYU stormed back.

Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock combined for 41 points, and Brock Zylstra put the final touches on the 25-point comeback win. It remains the largest comeback victory in NCAA Tournament history.

3. Women’s Soccer reaches first-ever College Cup

2021 NCAA Tournament

BYU women’s soccer was always knocking on the doorstep of reaching a College Cup, but they never quite broke through. That was until the 2021 season. Then, BYU knocked off No. 1 seed Virginia in Charlottesville in the third round to set up an NCAA Quarterfinals match at South Field against South Carolina. The Cougars took down the Gamecocks 4-1, sending BYU to its first-ever College Cup.

In the College Cup, BYU outlasted defending National Champion and WCC rival Santa Clara on its home field in penalty kicks with a 3-2 victory. They then faced Florida State for the National Championship. BYU came up short in PKs, 4-3. But the run proved BYU was a national program in women’s soccer.

2. Home win over No. 2 Gonzaga

No. 23 BYU 91, No. 2 Gonzaga 78

February 23, 2020

Before the world shut down from the COVID-19 pandemic, BYU basketball pulled off one of the greatest wins in the history of the Marriott Center. BYU took down No. 2 Gonzaga, 91-78, in a game that had the nation buzzing about Cougar hoops for the first time since Jimmer Fredette was in Provo.

It was the first year under head coach Mark Pope, and he delivered the nation’s best three-point shooting team. In the win over the Zags, BYU shot 40% from three and 53% from the field as senior trio Yoeli Childs, TJ Haws, and Jake Toolson popped off for a combined 61 points on a Senior Night that will likely never be forgotten.

1. Big 12 invitation

BYU was always transparent about its desire to use football Independence and the WCC as a springboard into a BCS/Power Five conference. On September 10, 2021, that mission was accomplished when the Big 12 called with an all-sports membership invite to BYU.

Going to the WCC was challenging for BYU athletics and its fans, but it gets rewarded with a coveted invite to the Big 12.

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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 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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10 Moments To Remember From BYU’s WCC Era