Winning: A BYU Tradition

BYU has one of the nation’s richest basketball traditions. In fact, 87 of the Cougars’ 112 seasons on the hardwood have been winning campaigns. Since putting its first team on the floor in 1903, BYU has amassed a 1713-1038 record to rank No. 13 all-time among NCAA Division I programs in total victories. The Cougars also boast a .623 winning percentage, ranking 32nd.  

But it’s not just the sum of victories that has made BYU one of the nation’s top hoop programs. Along the way, BYU has claimed 29 conference championships and received 38 postseason invites, including 27 NCAA Tournament appearances. The Cougars won two NIT titles in 1951 (a national championship as the NIT was considered a premier tournament at the time) and 1966. BYU players also boast 122 all-conference and 80 All-America citations along with 45 NBA draft selections.

BYU has won conference championships in four different leagues. The first six came from the Rocky Mountain Conference and continued as BYU won five as a member of the Skyline Conference. During the Cougars’ membership in the Western Athletic Conference, BYU teams won 12 conference championships. Tack on six Mountain West Conference titles in the league’s first 12 seasons, and BYU has won one-fourth of all possible regular season conference championships.

BYU’s basketball legacy is filled with many unique achievements. In 1981, the Cougars advanced to the Elite Eight when All-American Danny Ainge made what is still considered one of the NCAA Tournament’s most amazing plays. Trailing Notre Dame 50-49 with eight seconds remaining, Ainge took the ball coast-to-coast, dribbling through all five Irish defenders, before lofting the game-winning finger roll just over the reach of Orlando Woolridge. Ainge received the Wooden Award and Eastman Trophy in 1981 as the nation’s top player.

In 2011, All-American Jimmer Fredette led the Cougars to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1981. Fredette led the nation in scoring in 2010-11 with a 28.9 ppg average and earned every major Player of the Year honor, including the Naismith, Wooden and Oscar Robertson awards. Simply known as "The Jimmer" throughout the nation, Fredette gained national fame with prolific scoring outbursts, which included 15 30-point games, four 40-point games and one 52-point explosion versus New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference tournament.

Legendary coach Stan Watts, who guided BYU to its NIT titles, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1986, while All-American center Kresimir Cosic became BYU’s second Hall member in 1996. Turning down the opportunity to play in the NBA, Cosic returned home to Yugoslavia to pursue his passion to better-develop basketball in Europe. He earned one gold and two silver medals while playing on four Olympic teams and was a longtime coach of the Yugoslavian National Team, mentoring many future NBA players. He ended his playing career as the all-time Croatian scoring leader.

Before Cosic’s arrival in Provo, the Cougars already held the distinction of being the first U.S. program to include an international player on its roster in Finland’s Timo Lampen in 1958-59. BYU also boasts two of the nation’s longest-standing rivalries, having first played Utah State in 1906 and Utah in 1909.

The first radio broadcast in the intermountain area took place on Feb. 17, 1940, when BYU hosted Utah State in the Old Ladies Gymnasium in Provo. BYU broke a ban on broadcasting college sports due to the clamor from fans that only 500 people could fit into the gym. Arch Madsen called the game on KOVO radio in Provo with station manager David Walker providing analysis. Home games have also been played in Springville, the old BY Academy and even on the University of Utah’s home court.

BYU created a new home on campus with the construction of the George Albert Smith Fieldhouse. The Smith Fieldhouse was home to the Cougars from 1951-1971, with 20 different all-conference players, including seven All-Americans, starring for BYU during that era. Many capacity crowds crammed inside the Fieldhouse to see Cougar basketball. With BYU’s winning tradition, the then 10,000-seat arena grew too small for the increasing interest. In 1971, the Marriott Center was built, giving BYU what is still to this day one of the most intimidating arenas in college basketball.

Since opening the 20,900-seat Marriott Center, the Cougars have been among the nation’s annual attendance leaders with 19 top-5 rankings and three times finishing No. 1. BYU has not disappointed its faithful, winning 79.5 percent of its games in the Marriott Center, including a school record 53-game home victory streak that started in 2005 and ended in 2008.

In recent history, the highest ranking a Cougar team has received in the media polls was the 1987-88 team. At one point the team was 17-0 and climbed as high as No. 2 and No. 3 in the rankings. Had the victory streak not been snapped by a single-game cross-country trip to UAB in Birmingham, the Cougars could have easily found themselves in the No. 1 spot as the top-rated Arizona Wildcats had lost and left the door open for the Cougars to be the only undefeated team in college basketball. The 2010-11, led by Fredette and Jackson Emery, climbed to No. 3 in both polls on Feb. 28, 2011. The team finished that season ranked 10th and 13th in the respective polls.

Over the years, 18 coaches have guided the Cougars and 17 have winning records. Current BYU head coach Dave Rose took the helm in 2005-06 after spending eight years as an assistant under former head coach Steve Cleveland. Rose was an instrumental part of helping the Cougars restore their tradition under Cleveland with NCAA appearances in 2001, 2003 and 2004 and NIT invites in 2000 and 2002. During that time, BYU was also one of just 14 programs to have a player drafted in both the 2003 and 2004 NBA Drafts as Travis Hansen was selected in the second round in 2003 and Rafael Araujo was the No. 8 overall pick in 2004. In his eight years guiding the Cougars, Dave Rose has led BYU to its first strings of six-straight NCAA Tournament bids (2007 to 2012), five-straight seasons with appearances in the national rankings and six-straight 25 win seasons. He has also led the Cougars to eight-straight postseason tournaments (NIT in 2006 and 2013) and four-straight seasons with a postseason victory (2010 to 2013). Both streaks are program records. Rose led the Cougars to three-straight conference titles from 2007 to 2009, the first such streak since 1932 to 1934.

WINNING TRADITION

  • 1951 and 1966 NIT Champions
  • 27 NCAA Tournament Appearances
  • 29 Regular Season Conference Championships
  • Two National Players of the Year – Danny Ainge and Jimmer Fredette
  • Jimmer Fredette – 2010-11 scoring champ at 28.9 points per game
  • No. 15 all-time in NCAA in total victories
  • NCAA Academic Progress Rate recognition – six-straight years
  • Only Division I program to receive NCAA APR Recognition on an NCAA Tournament bid in six-straight seasons (2006 to 2012)
  • 25 All-Americans and five Academic All-Americans
  • Five MWC Players of the Year
  • 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 Conference Champions
  • .781 (100-28) – Dave Rose's conference winning percentage
  • 209-66 (.760) – Dave Rose's coaching record
  • Dave Rose – three-time MWC Coach of the Year
  • 13 postseason invitations in last 14 years
  • 53-game home winning streak from 2005 to 2008
  • 117-11 (.914) home record in last 8 years
  • 2010-11 final rankings of No. 10 (AP Poll), No. 13 (Coaches Poll)
  • 2009-10 final rankings of No. 17 (AP Poll), No. 22 (Coaches Poll)
  • Back-to-back 30-win seasons – 30 in 2009-10 and 32 in 2010-11
  • Five-straight seasons ranked in the top 25 (2006-07 to 2010-11)
  • Six-straight 25-win seasons (2006-07 to 2011-12)
  • Six-straight NCAA Tournament appearances (2006-07 to 2011-12)
  • Eight-straight postseason appearances (NIT in 2006 and 2013, NCAA from 2007 to 2013)
  • Four-straight seasons with a postseason victory (2010 to 2013)
  • 15-game win streak in 2009-10, second longest in program history
  • Two 10-game win streaks in 2010-11, first-time in program history
  • Ranked No. 1 in free throw percentage in the nation (2010)
  • Ranked No. 2 in in the nation in scoring offense (2010)
  • Ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring margin (2010)
  • Ranked No. 2 in the nation in three-point field goal percentage (2010)
  • Ranked No. 5 in the nation in winning percentage (2011)
  • Ranked No. 5 in the nation in scoring margin (2011)
  • Ranked No. 6 in the nation in assists (2012)
  • Ranked No. 7 in the nation in scoring offense (2011)
  • Ranked No. 10 in the nation in free throw percentage (2011)