Members of the 1984 National Champion football team along with the crystal football presented at halftime of the BYU-Utah game. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Twenty five years later, BYU remains the only national champion to never win that honor in a New Year’s Day Bowl.
Today we salute the 1984 National Champion BYU football team which posted a 13-0 record. As those Cougars weaved their way through the victory trail over Pittsburgh, Baylor, Tulsa, Hawai`i, Colorado State, Wyoming, Air Force, New Mexico, UTEP, San Diego State, Utah, Utah State and Michigan, the rest of collegiate football paved the way for BYU to ascend.
There are many subplots during that perfect season. Among them are injuries, game-winning drama by BYU players and a domino-toppling of the nation’s elite, which enabled the Cougars’ ascent.
“It was part of a run of amazing games that made BYU a national name,” said former center Trevor Matich of that 1984 squad earlier this season when he was in Provo for Homecoming. Matich was one of 52 returned missionaries on that 1984 BYU team that also had 25 married players.
Matich was the only first round draft (New England Patriots) from that 1984 team. Twenty Cougars from that 1984 team went on to play in the National Football League, including Matich, Kurt Gouveia, Lee Johnson, Matich, Vai Sikahema, Leon White, Mark Bellini, Glen Kozlowski, Lakei Heimuli, Robbie Bosco, Cary Whittingham, Jeff Sprowls, Robert Anae, Kyle Morrell, Louis Wong, Jim Herrmann, and Shawn Knight.
Matich and return specialist Sikahema went on to play several years in the NFL before becoming sportscasters. Sikahema is with WCAU-TV in Philadelphia and Matich is with ESPN and also The Sporting News.
Matich missed the Tulsa game, the only game during the season where a regular starter did not play. Starting in his place at center that game was Anae. Anae, now offensive coordinator at BYU, switched from center to guard at the beginning of the season for the good of the team which had its goal set on a ninth consecutive Western Athletic Conference title.
Four teams (Miami, Nebraska twice, Texas and Washington) occupied the No. 1 spot in 1984 and Florida was ineligible with its 9-1-1 record. The No. 12 Cougars were one of five undefeated teams in the top 20 after the first week, topped by No. 1 Miami.
The unranked Cougars vaulted to No. 12 after the season debut with a 20-14 upset at No.3 Pittsburgh in the first live telecast of a college football game by ESPN. BYU’s games had only been on true national TV twice prior to 1984, in 1953 (vs. Utah) and 1979 (vs. San Diego State).
All-American quarterback Steve Young, the great, great, great grandson of Brigham Young, had just graduated and was color commentator with Jay Monsen on KBYU telecasts during the 1984 season. The BYU quarterback successor to Young was junior Bosco the great, great, great grandson of another early Mormon leader, Wilford Woodruff.
Bosco’s 50-yard TD pass to Adam Haysbert is among the highlighted plays from that victory at Pitt. Following the victory over the Panthers, BYU secured victories over a pair of coaches who would reach national prominence, Baylor’s Grant Teaff and Tulsa’s John Cooper who went on to lead Arizona State and Ohio State.
Nebraska became No. 1 in week two as No. 6 BYU, 2-0, was one of 14 unbeaten teams. The Huskers retained the top spot in week three as No. 4 BYU, 3-0, was one of 15 unblemished in the top 10 following a 38-15 beating of Tulsa.
Linebacker Marv Allen took the medical school entrance exam the day after he intercepted a pair of passes and had a fumble recovery en route to earning WAC Player of the Week honors against Tulsa. Allen is now a medical doctor who is on the advisory board at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo.
Sharlene Wells, Miss BYU, was crowned Miss America that evening after the Tulsa game.
The signature play of the 1984 season came the next week in an 18-13 victory at Hawai`i. In Honolulu, safety Morrell did an aerial somersault over both lines to flip Rainbow quarterback Rafael Cherry by the shoulder pads in a third-and-goal stopper in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska remained on top in week four as BYU, 4-0, dropped to No. 8 among 13 unbeaten in the rankings.
Then BYU had a bye and a plummet in the rankings before winning at Colorado State.
Texas took over the No. 1 spot in week five with BYU, 5-0, climbing to No. 5 as eight remained unbeaten in the polls.
Washington was the new No. 1 in week seven as the Huskies and No. 5 BYU were both 6-0 and part of six unbeaten and untied teams. There were five teams with one tie now in the top 20.
Johnson broke the school record hitting his final 39 PATs. Johnson’s foot clearly made a difference in the 30-25 victory over Air Force and a 41-38 victory over Wyoming.
In the AFA game Johnson hit three points and a fourth-quarter field goal. In the Wyoming game, he connected on his first three PATs, then the Cougars subsequently missed a pair of two-point conversions and UW missed its last four PAT tries in a 41-38 BYU victory.
Washington remained No. 1 in week eight and BYU went up to No. 4 in the UPI poll as only South Carolina joined the unbeaten trio. Those three remained unbeaten through week nine as BYU climbed to No. 3. In week 10 UW and BYU were both 9-0, but the Huskies were No. 1 and BYU was No. 4.
Sports Illustrated came to cover game nine vs. UTEP with Doug Looney writing an article entitled “It’s Possible Brigham Young Could be The One.” Future SI writer Rick Reilly of the Los Angeles Times, Gene Wojciechowski of the Dallas Morning News and Mike Lopresti of Gannett News joined other national writers who came to Provo completing a circuit, which also took them to Itta Benna, Miss., to cover Mississippi Valley State’s Jerry Rice.
Nebraska reclaimed the No. 1 spot in week 11 and South Carolina, 9-0, leaped ahead of No. 3 BYU to No. 2 in the polls at 9-0.
BYU took over the No. 1 spot after beating Utah, 24-14, in week 12, with Roy Johnson of the New York Times in the Rice Stadium press box at Salt Lake City.
Naysayers like Bryant Gumbell called BYU’s schedule a bunch of Bo Diddley Tech’s on NBC’s Today Show. And Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer later earned the honor of having a sewage lagoon in Midvale, Utah named the “Barry Switzer Bowl,” for his anti-BYU tirade.
In the final game of the 1984 season, BYU remained true to its commitment and played in the Holiday Bowl against unranked Michigan, now recovered from injuries and who had been ranked No. 9 at the beginning of the season and had received a first place vote.
The Goodyear blimp was floating over the San Diego sky prior to that 24-17 victory over Michigan.
BYU linebacker White was named the defensive MVP as his cancer-ridden father watched from a hospital bed on the sidelines.
Cougar safety Steve Haymond, grandson of Creed Haymond, once the fastest man in the world, started only as a senior, Michigan kept running to the strong side of Haymond and White to no avail in the first half. After one successful play, Haymond got up alongside the Wolverine tight end, who was being berated within earshot by Coach Bo Schembechler and Haymond asked, “How do you stand playing for that guy?”
Haymond played cornerback in the CSU game. He and unsung defender Mark Allen used to sneak desserts to their wives from the training table during the 1984 season.
In 1985, BYU coach LaVell Edwards went to the White House to visit President Ronald Reagan to honor the national champions.
The Cougars concluded the 1984 season with a 24-game winning streak, the longest in the nation at that time.
Mark Allen (July 2006), Jason Briggs (December 1984), Paul Crawford (August 1985), Craig Garrick (September 2002), and have passed away from the ranks of the 1984 National Championship squad.
The 1984 Cougars were the only undefeated team in the nation at the end of the season.
Click here to read player bios from the 1984 team.
DEGREES EARNED BY THE 1984 TWO-DEEP
Ladd Akeo, LB Psychology 1988
Dr. Marv Allen, LB Pre Med 1985, MD (Georgetown) 1990
Robert Anae, OG Poly Sci. 1986, MS sociology (Hawai`i),
PhD philosophy 1999
Mark Bellini, WR Univ. Studies 1989, MS Civil Eng. 1997
John Borgia, OG Recreation Management, 1991
Robbie Bosco, QB Speech Comm. 1986, MA P.E. 1990
Alema Fitisemanu, LB Political Science 1993
Blaine Fowler, QB Broadcasting 1986
Kurt Gouveia, LB Open 1988
Adam Haysbert, WR Communications 1986
Larry Hamilton, DT Statistics 1985
Steve Haymond, DB Accounting 1985
Lakei Heimuli, FB Travel Tourism 1992
Jim Herrmann, DT Marketing 1985, Law 1994
Lee Johnson, P/K Marketing 1986
David King, OG Therapy 1991
Lance Lindley, TE Business 1986
Shawn Knight, DT Pre-Physical Therapy 1988
Glen Kozlowski, WR Communications 1988
Trevor Matich, C Open 1987
Keith McCullough, C Poly Sc. 1986, Law (Wisconsin) 1989
Jay McDonald, LB Outdoor Recreation 1988
David Mills, TE Computer Science 1987
Kyle Morrell, DB Recreation Management 1993
David Neff, LB Marketing 1986
Sam Oramas, OT Law 1994
Richard Orr, WR Psychology 1997
Korey Rasmussen, DB Finance 1987, Law 1990
Scott Robinson, OT Broadcasting 1987
Thor Salanoa, FB Recreation Management 1992
Marc Sherman, DB Psych. 1990, MA Pedagogy 2000
Shane Shumway, DB Agribusiness, 1987
Vai Sikahema, PR/KR Broadcasting 2002
Kelly Smith, HB General Studies 1986
Ken Smith, NG Marketing 1986
Jeff Sprowls, DB Business Management 1988
Rodney Thomas, DB Open 1992
Cary Whittingham, LB Am. Studies 1986, MA P.E. 1990
Louis Wong, OT P.E. 1988
Dave Wright, OT Open 1987
NOTE: Degrees from BYU unless otherwise noted.