BYU Football: Did you know? (Hall of Fame Coaches)

Bo Schembechler is one of the Hall of Fame coaches BYU faced in 1984.

This week the Tuesday Timeline focused on BYU football head coaches. I wanted to call attention to one particular nugget of information that could easily have been overlooked or flat out missed since I try to load these timelines with as much information and insights as possible. It is in reference to the men who coached BYU's opponents in 1984.
Did you know that four of BYU's 13 opponents in 1984 were coached by men who were later inducted into the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame? 
Those four men were:
  1. Grant Taeff, Baylor
  2. John Cooper, Tulsa
  3. Fisher DeBerry, Air Force
  4. Bo Schembechler, Michigan
Also of note, BYU played Hawaii that season. The Rainbow Warriors, as they were knows then, were coached by Dick Tomey who was the WAC Coach of the Year in 1981 and later Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 1992 while coaching at Arizona. Lastly, for what it's worth, Utah was coached by Chuck Stobart in 1984, who was the Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year in 1979.

Besides being a fun fact, this is a rather significant fact when discussing the 1984 National Championship. As you may recall, there was recently some debate, again, about the merits of BYU earning this distinction.

Football games are largely determined by the players on the field, however, it is undeniable that coaches also have an impact. Otherwise, they wouldn't be paid enormous sums of money. Coaches are the ones who train the players, who put together game plans, and who call plays and make adjustments during the game.

Great coaching is usually reflected by an outstanding win-loss record. Such was the case with BYU in 1984 under head coach LaVell Edwards, who is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. However, great coaches aren't immune from having mediocre seasons. During those seasons, they are still able to spoil the season for great teams.

Case in point, Bobby Bowden coached a Florida State team that finished the 2009 season 7-6. In the third game of the season, his Seminoles came to Provo and blew out a BYU team that would finish the season 11-2 and ranked 12 in both major polls. Florida State also finished the season by using its back up quarterback to beat a West Virginia team, 33-21, that came into the Gator Bowl with a 9-3 record and ranked number 18.

BYU didn't have an extra special season, or undefeated season, in 2009 because of coaching. The 2009 Cougars beat some good teams: Oklahoma, Utah, and Oregon State. One big reason BYU didn't beat every team on the schedule was having to play Florida State coached by Hall of Fame coach Bobby Bowden and TCU coached by a probable future Hall of Fame coach Gary Patterson. Bronco Mendenhall, a very good coach in his own right, was out coached by Bowden and Patterson.

To tie this all back into the 1984 National Championship, all it would have taken for BYU to not win the national championship was one loss. Any of these four hall of fame coaches and Tomey were capable of pulling off the upset against BYU in 1984.
  • Taeff led the Baylor Bears to an upset of 7-1-1 and number six ranked Texas, 24-10, in the Bears' final game of the season.
  • Cooper led the Tulsa Hurricane to a 24-17 win over undefeated (9-0) Indiana State to capture the Hurricane's fifth consecutive conference title.
  • DeBerry took the Air Force Academy into South Bend, and beat Notre Dame 21-7. The Falcons also got a big win in the Independence Bowl over Virginia Tech, 23-7. The Hokies went into the game with an 8-3 record.
  • Schembechler's Michigan Wolverines knocked off the number one ranked Miami Hurricanes in early September 1984. 
  • When Hawaii was 0-3, Tomey was able to rally the troops and pull off an upset over UNLV. The Rebels were 3-0, at that time, and would finish the season 11-2. 
On the surface, it is easy to dismiss BYU's slate of opponents in 1984. After a little excavating, though, we discover the soil was rich in minerals. (Ok, rich is probably an overstatement, but the soil was far from barren.) This all-star list of coaches significantly added to the degree of difficulty that BYU faced to go undefeated.

It is witnessed over and over again in sports. A team getting a lot of attention for the great season it is having gets beat by an inferior team. How does that team with less talent win? Coaching.

BYU has just one undefeated season in school history, and it came in a season the opponents were coached by four hall of fame coaches plus two conference coaches of the year. All of the schools led by these coaches, except Utah, pulled off big wins against superior opponents during the 1984 season. LaVell Edwards and BYU deserve credit for not letting that happen to them. The Cougars rarely face so many high quality coaches in one year, yet they have not been able to complete another perfect season.

The 1984 BYU Cougars was a special football team. It can't be denied. Anyone still trying to discredit the National Championship should stop and just embrace the uniqueness of it.

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