PROVO -- K. Fred Skousen, vice president for Advancement at Brigham Young University, announced the retirement of Alan R. "Pete" Witbeck, longtime senior associate athletic director and former Cougar basketball assistant coach, effective September 1, 2001.
"Pete has been a right-hand man for five athletic directors over nearly a half century," Skousen said. "He's made countless admirable contributions to the progress of the BYU athletic program from a little-known Rocky Mountain school to a national power that won conference titles in 16 of the 19 Mountain West sports we competed in this year."
Witbeck won the Dale Rex Memorial trophy, awarded to the person who has contributed the most to amateur sports in Utah, in 1964 after coaching BYU's freshmen basketball team to an undefeated season in which they averaged 118 points per game. He was later inducted into BYU's Hall of Fame for his contributions as assistant coach to Stan Watts on the BYU basketball team that won the 1966 NIT tournament, which was recognized as college basketball's national championship at the time.
Now in his 47th year at BYU, Witbeck has been serving as the university NCAA compliance officer, working to ensure that the BYU athletic program observes the numerous rules legislated by collegiate athletic's governing body and serving as the university's point man with the association. Thanks to his vigilance and efforts to educate coaches and student-athletes, BYU is one of the nation's few universities that have never committed a major violation.
President Merrill J. Bateman named James R. Kimmel, currently associate director of BYU's Student Athlete Center, as the university's new compliance officer. Witbeck will remain associated with BYU in a consulting role to assist with the transition of his duties, including compliance, game management, sports medicine and fund raising, among others.
In addition to his role as compliance officer, Witbeck participated in scheduling for football and men's basketball, helping to bring such high profile programs as Miami, Penn State and Notre Dame to Provo. Witbeck also served as the game manager for football and men's basketball, a crucial behind-the-scenes function that required arranging logistics for visiting teams and officials and handling whatever minor problems arose during contests. As game manager, Witbeck has attended every BYU home football and men's basketball game since 1972. "Pete's seen it all when it comes to BYU athletics," said Val Hale, men's athletic director. "He was there for the NIT championship, on the sidelines for the Miracle Bowl, Danny Ainge's dash against Notre Dame, the football national championship and more. When he departs, we'll lose nearly 50 years of experience and a great lifetime Cougar. I don't know how we can ever replace that."
When BYU hosted conference or NCAA tournaments, Witbeck was usually designated tournament manager, Hale explained. "He filled countless assignments, and his attention to detail is legendary at the university, in the conference, and in the NCAA."
After earning a bachelor's and master's degrees from BYU, Witbeck joined the BYU physical education faculty in 1954. Three years later he became the university's first freshmen basketball coach, and over his six-year tenure his teams went 62-9. He has worked under five university presidents beginning with Ernest L. Wilkinson.
"I give all the credit to Stan Watts, who had the faith and trust in me, a young guy out of Canada, to start off my career," said Witbeck, a native of Raymond, Alberta, who has been inducted into that city's Hall of Fame.
In 1962 Watts elevated him to assistant head coach and gave him responsibility for game planning and coordinating the offense, in addition to his continued role in charge of recruiting.
"The greatest moment of my career was being part of that national championship team that won the NIT," Witbeck remembers fondly. "We were seeded number one, and we swept through the tournament. Back then winning in Madison Square Garden really meant something."
In 1972, when Watts became athletic director, he asked his assistant coach to join him in the administration. The amazing growth that followed is another of Witbeck's greatest satisfactions.
"At that time our basketball program was on the national level and we decided we needed to get football on the national scene, too," he said. "Those are the two visible revenue sports and you need them to be successful to have other great sports, which we do now.
"When you start winning as we did, that precipitates growth," said Witbeck, who has been at BYU long enough to remember the days before the Marriott Center and Cougar Stadium, now Lavell Edwards Stadium.
An avid jogger for the past 35 years, Witbeck also won 12 consecutive BYU intramural racquetball titles and co-authored a racquetball textbook now in its sixth edition. He plans to continue his award-winning gardening and spend more time with his seven grandchildren and his wife Kathy, who recently retired after a 40-year career in education. He also looks forward to attending games in the stadiums his early efforts helped build, although he anticipates sitting in the stands will be a strange feeling.
"I've never had that luxury of being just a fan," said Witbeck, who has always had game responsibilities at every BYU contest he's attended. "I don't know if I'll be able to stand it when people start criticizing the coach. But I know one thing, my blood will always run blue."