|BYU football head coaches LaVell Edwards (left) and Bronco Mendenhall.|
There is no doubt who's the best coach in BYU history: LaVell Edwards. The legacy of LaVell is so large, however, the achievements of the other BYU Cougars head coaches, both before and after, can easily get overshadowed and forgotten.
Did you know that during the time that BYU was a member of the Western Athletic and Mountain West conferences every BYU head coach was voted Conference Coach of the Year?The Western Athletic Conference (WAC) was created in 1962, and BYU's Hal Mitchell was the WAC Coach of the Year that first season. BYU's overall record was just 4-6, but the Cougars won the right games to finish second in the conference standings that year. It also helped that BYU beat conference champion New Mexico 27-0 that season, and Eldon Fortie was the second leading rusher in the nation and an All-American.
Mitchell's successor was Tommy Hudspeth. In 1965, he took BYU from last to first. The Cougars were 0-4 in the conference each of the previous two seasons, but 4-1 in 1965. It was also BYU's first conference championship, ever. That made Hudspeth the easy choice for WAC Coach of the Year.
Mitchell and Hudspeth each earned their coach of the year honors in their second season as head coach at BYU. Edwards got the award in his first season.
In 1972, BYU finished second in the WAC standings. A rare, for that era, win over Utah prevented the Utes from claiming a share of the conference title. Like 10 years earlier, BYU boasted an elite running back. Pete Van Valkenburg led the nation in rushing yards. All that made Edwards the choice for WAC Coach of the year.
Edwards would go on to win the award six more times (1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1990, 1996). The 1996 coach of the year award is, technically, the WAC Mountain Division Coach of the Year. This was the first of three seasons of the 16-team WAC. Rather than have a conference coach of the year, the two eight-team divisions voted on their own coach of the year.
After Edwards retired, Gary Crowton took the reigns. BYU was now a member of the Mountain West Conference (MWC). His first season, Crowton took home the MWC Coach of the Year award. During the 2001 season, BYU jumped out to a 12-0 start, and running back Luke Staley won the Doak Walker Award. Crowton was the easy choice.
Bronco Mendenhall is the final BYU football coach to lead the program while a member of the MWC. In his second season, he won MWC Coach of the Year. That was 2006, when BYU knocked off the reigning MWC champions TCU to end the nation's longest winning streak. BYU finished with a perfect 8-0 conference record. The feel good story about BYU having its first winning season and conference championship in five years secured the prize for Mendenhall.
In total, that is five different BYU coaches. They all won the award in their first or second season as head coach.
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