COUGAR TRACKS

Influence Of LaVell Edwards Will Be On Display For BYU/Texas Game

Oct 24, 2023, 10:03 PM

PROVO, Utah – The idea that BYU/Texas would be a conference game is the stuff of dreams. It was a type of dream that many following BYU football have had, but very few believed it would be possible.

That dream is realized on Saturday when BYU takes on No. 7 Texas in a Big 12 clash in Austin.

The two programs will be league foes for only one year before Texas moves on to the big payday in the SEC. But it’s a moment that the BYU football program has been seeking for decades.

RELATED: Subscribe To ‘A Century of Cougar Football’ Podcast diving into the history of BYU over the past 100 years

A big reason for BYU’s dream being realized is thelate great head coach LaVell Edwards.

Edwards guided BYU football to 29 years of excellence, rewriting the record books in college football and turning BYU into a brand on the gridiron.

LaVell Edwards impacted the careers of Steve Sarkisian, Kalani Sitake

The influence of Edwards will be on display throughout Saturday’s Big 12 showdown. Two of Edwards’s former players, Kalani Sitake and Steve Sarkisian, will be on the sidelines coaching up BYU and Texas, respectively.

“We’re playing a really good BYU football team, 5-2—obviously, my alma mater. I know a lot of those coaches well. Kalani Sitake and I were teammates back in the day and I can’t believe he’s in year eight, and he’s doing a heck of a job.”

Sarkisian arrived at BYU in the winter of 1995. He was one of the nation’s top Junior College quarterbacks. During his official visit to BYU in ’95, Kalani Sitake was his host.

Kalani Sitake: Recruiting Host

The two never played on the same BYU team together as Sitake left to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Oakland shortly after Sark enrolled. But Sitake played a part in Sark’s recruitment to BYU as a host during Sarkisian’s official visit.

“Sark is all about ball, man, and he saw a really good team,” Sitake said. “I think the biggest concern for him during that time was if John Walsh was going to come out early for the draft or return for a senior year. All Sark was waiting for was that moment. I don’t want to sit here and act like I did a great job.”

Both Sitake and Sarkisian are byproducts of the LaVell Edwards coaching tree. Sark’s connections to Edwards and BYU helped get his foot in the door at USC when Norm Chow was the offensive coordinator. Sark was part of the zenith of the USC dynasty.

Sitake immediately began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at BYU after his playing days concluded. He later joined former BYU player Kyle Whittingham on Whitt’s staff at Utah for a decade.

What Sarksian remembers from Coach Edwards

They have taken different routes in the football coaching world, but they are bonded by their connections to LaVell Edwards and BYU football.

“One thing that Coach Edwards, I have one specific story that I always hold on to. I remember we were in a game and it was right near the end of the first half and it was a timeout and there was some discussion on what play to call. There was a dialogue with Coach Chow, our offensive coordinator, and Roger French, our O-Line coach, of what we were going to do. Nobody could really agree. And I never forget Coach Edwards looking at me and said, ‘Sark, what do you want to run?’ I referenced a play that I want to run and he turned around and said, ‘Okay, we’re running the play (I just referenced).’

“So I think the one thing that he did a great job in my time there was making you feel like the coach believed in you. That there was rapport there as the quarterback that I was his guy and that he believed in what I was able to do. I think that that’s something we’ve tried to do here is that when you become the guy at quarterback, there’s a sense of belief in that guy. That’s why there’s that constant dialogue to try to put them in the best position that they feel comfortable with to go execute.”

Sarkisian only played two seasons at BYU but his impact was as strong as many that rolled through Edwards’ quarterback factory in Provo. The El Camino JC product led BYU to its only New Year’s Day bowl game, an appearance in the 1997 Cotton Bowl. He guided BYU to a 14-1 record and No. 5 final ranking that season.

Sarkisian has been led this season by Texas starter Quinn Ewers. On Saturday, he’s expected to turn to No. 2 QB Maalik Murphy as Ewers recovers from a shoulder injury suffered last week.

Kalani’s BYU is a lot like the one LaVell led

Quarterbacks were an essential piece to LaVell’s success at BYU. But he also made sure to run a program that the players loved being part of. That continues for Sitake, who is the only head coach in BYU history to have been a former player for Edwards.

“Pretty much all of it,” said Sitake on what he incorporates from Edwards into his BYU program today. “I got into coaching because I loved the way LaVell coached me. I love the way that he worked with his staff. It’s rough that he’s not here with us anymore. But I keep in touch with his family quite often and his wife Patti is awesome. … But you see it in everybody that’s been coached by LaVell. From Andy Reid to Sark to Kyle Whittingham to all of these great players that have ever played here at BYU … it’s just nice when you have a college experience with LaVell. Much of what we do here is exactly what he did for me. I’m not a creator of anything, but when I see something that’s really nice, I want to keep it going.'”

BYU/Texas is a big opportunity for the Cougars

Like Edwards, Sitake’s BYU teams have never been shy about playing in the biggest games. A stage like the one that awaits on Saturday against a Texas program that’s a College Football Playoff contender is a huge opportunity.

One of the calling cards of Edwards throughout his 29 years as head coach, whether it was a big rivalry game or a game against a lowly opponent. He treated it all the same. That still carries with Sarkisian to this day.

“The second thing about Coach Edwards that I’ll always keep with me is he always kept things light; he was himself,” said Sarkisian. “I know everybody sees the stern face on the sidelines from back in the day. But he was a really light-hearted guy. He was a lot of fun to be around. The players liked to be around him and I think that goes back to having really good relationships with your players. That was something that he had when I was there as well.”

It also didn’t hurt Edwards that he won a lot of ball games during his time at BYU; 257 games to be exact. That was a different era when the passing attack was in its infancy, and Edwards leaned into that identity to do something different.

Seeking a championship culture

Sitake has been candid that he doesn’t care how games are won; he wants to win. That’s the goal in front of him as he looks to continue to build up the program LaVell once turned into a national power.

“We’re trying to drive that culture that I think can help win games and be a championship culture. And that’s what we’re trying to get done,” Sitake said. “It fights right in line with what a lot of people do. It’s not just LaVell. But LaVell is the best part of college football. People like him and you see the influence that he’s had in so many people’s lives and not just coaches. But there’s a bunch of men that are out there doing things better because they got to play for a legend like LaVell and it’s just really cool that a good number of them are coaching football.”

BYU vs. No. 7 Texas

Date: Saturday, October 28, 2023

Location: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium

Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. (MT)

TV: ABC

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM) — Extended pregame coverage begins at 9 a.m.

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 in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

Take us with you wherever you go.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

  • BYU Cougars Scoreboard

  • BYU Cougars Team Leaders

  • BYU Cougars Standings

Cougar Tracks

BYU Football, Zach Wilson, Kalani Sitake, Signing Day...

Mitch Harper

Ranking BYU Football’s Best Players To Sign During The Kalani Sitake Era

The best players to sign with BYU football for Kalani Sitake from high school and the Transfer Portal.

4 months ago

Foster Pavilion, Baylor Bears, BYU Basketball, Big 12...

Mitch Harper

Foster Pavilion Was Great Stage For BYU’s First Big 12 Road Game

Baylor's new $212 million home was a great setting for a Big 12 basketball game.

5 months ago

BYU Football, 12-Team Playoff, LJ Martin...

Mitch Harper

Three Things BYU Football Needs To One Day Reach 12-Team Playoff

The 12-team Playoff is coming in college football. What does BYU need to do to one day play in the bracket?

5 months ago

Big 12 Basketball, BYU, Dallin Hall...

Mitch Harper

How Will BYU Basketball Fare In Big 12? Projecting 2024 Order Of Finish

Where will BYU finish in their first season of Big 12 Conference play? Time to make predictions.

5 months ago

BYU Basketball, Mark Pope, Big 12...

Mitch Harper

Mark Pope Lays Out BYU’s Expectations For Inaugural Big 12 Schedule

Big 12 play has arrived for No. 12 BYU Basketball. Mark Pope shares his expectations for conference play.

5 months ago

BYU Basketball, Trevin Knell, Three-Point Shooting...

Mitch Harper

What We Learned About BYU Basketball During Nonconference Play

BYU basketball turns its attention to Big 12 play. But first we take a step back at look at what we learned about the Cougars in nonconference.

5 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Give-A-Thon

The KSL Sports Zone, KSL 5 TV, FM100.3, 103.5 The Arrow, and KSL NewsRadio have teamed up to raise money for the kids being served by Primary Children’s Care!

ksl-sports-newsletter...

KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.

...

KSL Sports

Jazz Notes Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the Jazz Notes newsletter. Get insider analysis, game recaps and opportunities to win tickets!

Follow @kslsports...

The Road Home Mediathon 2023

The KSL Sports Zone and KSLSports.com are proud to support the all-day Mediathon 2023 at the Road Home, an annual tradition to raise money and other essential items for the Road Home, a Homeless Shelter.

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.

Influence Of LaVell Edwards Will Be On Display For BYU/Texas Game