The Brigham Young Cougars had a coaching vacancy 40 years ago. Tom Hudspeth was let go after averaging only four wins per year his last four years. He was replaced by LaVell Edwards. It was the best decision ever made regarding the BYU football program.
When Edwards was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach, BYU was not a desirable destination to play or coach. Although he really wanted the job, Edwards was certain that, like Hudspeth before him, his coaching tenure would end with a pink slip. Edwards was inheriting a losing program.
In a few short years, Edwards redefined BYU football. Before his arrival BYU had played 47 seasons of football, but had little to show for it.
In 47 seasons, BYU had never played in a bowl game. After three seasons, Edwards had BYU in its first bowl. From 1978-94, BYU played in a bowl game 17 consecutive years. In total, BYU went to 22 bowl games with Edwards at the helm.
In 47 seasons, BYU won one conference championship. It took Edwards three seasons to win one. He won ten straight from 1976-85. When all was said and done, BYU won 19 conference championships under Edwards.
In 47 seasons, BYU had never won more than five consecutive games in a single season. Edwards won seven consecutive games in this third season. From 1983-85, his teams won 25 consecutive games.
In 47 seasons, BYU had never won more than eight games in a single season. In his fifth season, Edwards won nine games. In 1984, BYU would set an NCAA record by winning 13 games in a single season. Twelve years later, 1996, BYU broke that record and won 14 games.
In 47 seasons, BYU had finished the season with a winning record just 15 times. In roughly one-third of that time (16 seasons) Edwards had 15 winning seasons.
In 47 seasons, BYU had never been in the national Top 20 rankings. Edwards had BYU in the rankings during his third season. BYU cracked the top 10 for the first time during the 1979 season, and in 1984 the Cougars finished at number 1--the National Champions. BYU became a regular in the polls during the seasons, and finished the year in the final rankings 12 times.
In 47 seasons, BYU had beaten arch-rival Utah only five times, and never more than three times in a row. Edwards won his first six contests against the Utes. He finished with a 22-7 record against Utah.
In 47 seasons, BYU had won 173 games and lost 235. Edwards had doubled the win total during his 19th season (1990), and he needed just 231 games to do it.
During his 29 seasons, Edwards transformed BYU from an obscure program on the back side of the Rocky Mountains into a well recognized, nationally respected program. A program that was home to a national championship. A program that churned out NFL talent annually. A program that garnered All-American citations regularly. A program that played in the Kickoff Classic and hosted the Pigskin Classic. A program that dominated its home field in one of the largest stadiums in America. A program that was home to a Heisman Trophy, a Maxwell Award, two Outland trophies, four Davey O’Brien awards, and seven Sammy Baugh trophies.
History clearly shows that no other decision in the 90 years of football at BYU was better than the decision made 40 years ago, this month, to hire LaVell Edwards as head football coach.
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