LaVell Edwards will retire at the conclusion of the 2000 season
LaVell Edwards, the seventh-winningest coach in the history of college football and the man many consider to be the father of the modern-day passing game, announced today that he will retire as Brigham Young University's head coach at the conclusion of the 2000 season.
Edwards, who will be 70 in October, has a 251-95-3 record in 28 seasons with the Cougars. His teams have won 20 conference titles and have appeared in 22 bowl games. In 1984, he was named National Coach of the Year after BYU finished the season 13-0 and won the National Championship. He needs just five victories to pass Tom Osborne as the sixth-winningest college football coach in history. He enters the 2000 season with the third-most wins (251) and the third best winning percentage (.723) among active coaches.
"Last winter I made the decision to coach for only one more season," Edwards said. "I have been wrestling with the timing of announcing that decision. After seeing the outstanding attitude and work ethic of this team, I came to the conclusion that it's best to get the announcement out of the way now so we can focus on the season and avoid the repeated distractions that come from questions about my retirement."
Edwards joined Hal Mitchell's BYU football staff as an assistant coach in 1962. He was named BYU's head coach in 1972 and has enjoyed winning seasons every year but 1973, when the Cougars finished 5-6. Labeled a "national coaching treasure" by USA Today, Edwards has coached his teams to four top-10 rankings and 13 top-25 finishes.
Edwards' teams are known for their wide-open offenses. His quarterbacks have thrown over 11,000 passes for more than 100,000 yards and 635 touchdowns in 28 seasons. All American quarterbacks to play for Edwards include Gary Sheide, Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Robbie Bosco, Ty Detmer and Steve Sarkisian. Awards won by his players include a Heisman Trophy, a Maxwell Award, two Outland Trophies, four Davey O'Brien Awards and 31 All-America citations.
"LaVell Edwards put BYU football on the map," BYU President Merrill J. Bateman said. "His teams have been perennial champions and have always won with class. He introduced a new style of offense that entertained fans, filled our stadium and created a revolution in college football. He is considered one of the finest coaches in America. LaVell will be best remembered, however, for the way he treats people. Everyone he meets he treats with respect.
"I am also pleased to announce that LaVell will work with the President's Office for at least a year in the further development of BYU Athletics."
Edwards inherited a mediocre BYU football program that had a .431 winning percentage in 47 seasons. His teams have since made appearances in the Fiesta, Cotton, Holiday, Tangerine, Citrus, Copper, Aloha, Liberty, Freedom, All-America and Motor City bowls. Edwards has not shied away from playing tough non-conference schedules. His teams own victories over the likes of Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma, Miami, UCLA, Washington, Pittsburgh and Colorado.
This year may be Edwards' toughest schedule yet. The Cougars open the season Aug. 26 against another coaching legend, Bobby Bowden, and the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles. Other 2000 non-conference opponents include Virginia, Mississippi State, Syracuse and Utah State.
Veteran sportscaster Paul James of KSL and Coach LaVell Edwards greet after each announced retirement plans in mid-August (BYU Photo)
Edwards' impact on the coaching world will continue long after he has left the coaching limelight. His former assistant coaches and players are now making their mark on the game. Seattle Seahawks head coach and general manager Mike Holmgren got his first big break as quarterbacks coach at BYU under Edwards. Current NFL head coaches Brian Billick (Baltimore Ravens) and Andy Reid (Philadelphia Eagles) played for the Cougars during the Edwards era. In the college ranks, Cal head coach Tom Holmoe played for Edwards and worked for a season at BYU as a graduate assistant coach. Alabama offensive coordinator Charlie Stubbs was also a graduate assistant with Edwards. Ted Tollner, San Diego State's head coach, served as Edwards' assistant. Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Gary Crowton grew up in Edwards' hometown of Orem, Utah, and patterned his coaching philosophy after Edwards', as did new Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach.
Edwards is famous for his sideline demeanor. During games, he stands with arms folded and a scowl fixed on his face. Despite the gruff appearance, Edwards is known for his wit and his keen sense of humor. He is well-respected and admired by his peers, having served as president of the American Football Coaches Association in 1987.
One of 14 children, Edwards graduated from Lincoln High School in Orem, Utah. He attended Utah State University, where he earned all-conference honors before serving a two-year commitment in the Army. He began his full-time coaching career at Granite High School in Salt Lake City, where he coached for eight years before accepting a job at BYU.
"We support LaVell's decision to announce his retirement now," said Val Hale, BYU's Athletic Director. "This will give our fans a chance to rally around LaVell and his team during this farewell season. We can show the coach how much we appreciate what he has done for this University."
Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson was on hand for the announcement. "LaVell's credentials designate him as one of the all-time great college football coaches, but his legacy might be that he is an even better person," said Thompson. "Considering the solid program he built and the tradition of football at BYU, I'm sure the program will continue to flourish. The bowl games and the championships are a way of life in Provo."