BYU Football Holidays

Jonny Harline celebrates one of the great moments in BYU football history.

Happy New Year, BYU Cougars fans! While most of you have probably been pondering what New Year's Resolutions would make you better people, or what you learned and how you grew in 2017, I have been thinking about something else. That probably makes me doomed for 2018, but I digress.

New Year's Day signifies the end of the holiday season. That has had my mind wondering, "What are the holiday's for BYU football?" In other words, what are the biggest events in BYU history that fans should stop what they are doing and taking a day to remember, pay homage, and/or celebrate?

I've come up with 10 days. I don't claim to have come up with the perfect collection of dates and events, so if you remember a date or event I missed, or have just a suggestion, please share in the comment section or send me an email. Due to the nature of the football season, I am not going to start with January.

July 1 - Independence Day
This is the day that BYU broke free from the Mountain West Conference, and any conference, affiliation to become a college football independent. Very few schools compete as an independent now making BYU's move bold and giving all the more reason to celebrate. It happened in 2010, and was the first time in school history that BYU did not compete in football as a member of a conference.

With the proximity to the 4th of July, acceptable forms of celebration can include BBQs and fireworks. A fun game of football with family or friends would be appropriate, too, since fall camp opens just a few weeks later.

September 8 - Upset Day 
Upset Day is a day to remember all of the times that BYU has upset a highly ranked foe. September 8 is the most appropriate date to celebrate because that was the day of the biggest upset in Cougar history. BYU beat the number one ranked Miami Hurricanes on September 8, 1990. Since Miami is also known as "The U," using a word that starts with the letter U, like upset, to designate this holiday is entirely appropriate.

It is perfectly acceptable for fans to refer to this day as Beat Miami Day or Beat #1 Day. Screaming at the top of your lungs, "We're going to win," a la Max Hall in 2009 when BYU upset number three Oklahoma, is also acceptable. Fans may also find it more practical to designate the second Saturday in September as the day to observe Upset Day. That is open for debate.

October 7 - Birthday 
The very first game in BYU history was played on October 7, 1922. It was a very humble beginning, but from its infantile start, Cougar football has grown and matured and deserves to be remembered and celebrated each year

Standard birthday celebration activities are in order. A cake or cupcakes with a football theme. Use this opportunity to give yourself a mid-season gift, like a BYU football jacket or some other paraphernalia that will keep you warm as the temperature is dropping at this time of year. Maybe you haven't attended a game yet. In that case, buying a couple of tickets for one of the remaining games would be another acceptable gift to give yourself or a Cougar fan you know.

October 11 - LaVell Edwards' Birthday 
I don't intend to come across as sacrilegious with this one. Since Moses is compared to the Savior at times in the scriptures, I think it is probably okay for me to make a similar association with LaVell Edwards within the scope of BYU football. Edwards is the savior, lowercase s, of BYU football. He came in the meridian of the first century of the sport at BYU and delivered the program from almost constant mediocrity and doormat status. Edwards got rid of the lesser law (running the ball) and instituted a higher law (throwing the ball). BYU became a nationally recognized brand and reached heights previously unimaginable. He made BYU football what it is today, and set the standard by which the program will always be measured.

This holiday will be left open for fans to celebrate however they feel best honors his memory.

November 25 - Beck-to-Harline Day 
Named after the greatest play in the long history of the BYU-Utah rivalry, this is a day to remember all of BYU's wins over Utah, not just the 2006 game that BYU won on the final play with John Beck's miraculous throw to Jonny Harline. While BYU has played Utah on many different days over the years, November 25 seems to be the best day to celebrate because that was the date of the 2006 game. The game that year was especially important because of the way the game was won, and because it snapped a four game losing streak to Utah. It also emphasized the renaissance that BYU was experiencing under head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

BYU's first win over Utah came on October 10, 1942. With two other holidays within three days before and after October 10, fans won't be able to give each holiday the attention it deserves if the anniversary of the first win is the day to celebrate.

Acceptable alternative names that fans may use as they exchange cards are Beat Utah Day, Happy Brandon Doman Day, Happy 4th and 18 Day, George is Still Running Day, Max Hall was Right Day, Happy Doink Day, and Harline is Still Open Day. Feel free to have fun mocking MUSS and MAFU while you are at it.

Don't forget to take time to remember all the other heroes who guided BYU to victory in the Holy War. Luke Staley, Jernaro Gilford, Pete Van Valkenburg, Jim McMahon, Ty Detmer, Brian McKenzie, Ronney Jenkins, and Marc Wilson just to name a few.

November 27 - Conference Championship Day
This would be one of the lesser holidays, like Halloween or President's Day. Not everyone gets the day off of work, but everyone knows it exists. BYU secured its first conference championship with a 42-8 win over New Mexico on November 27, 1965. A decade later, under LaVell Edwards, BYU became synonymous with conference champion. While BYU is no longer a member of a conference, those conference championship teams are fondly remembered and deserve a day of celebration.

December 1 - Ty Detmer Day 
On December 1, 1990, Ty Detmer won the Heisman Trophy--the most prestigious individual honor in college football. It marked the end of 14 years of struggles by BYU quarterbacks who had been Heisman worthy, but didn't win. To this day, Detmer is still the only BYU player to win the award. In fact, he is the last Cougar to even place in Heisman voting, notwithstanding outstanding seasons from players like Steve Sarkisian and Luke Staley.

Fans may also refer to this day as Heisman Day and use the refrain, "Happy Heisman Day," as they greet each other. Watching Ty Detmer highlights, singing the Tysman Rap are acceptable forms of remembrance and celebration. If you are up for it, you can dress in all bronze and use bronze body paint to take on the appearance of the statue on the trophy.

December 21 or January 2 - National Championship Day
The day BYU won the 1984 National Chamionship, the school's only national championship in football, is definitely a holiday. However, I am not sure which day is the best day to celebrate it. December 21 is the day BYU beat Michigan in the Holiday Bowl to complete the perfect 13-0 season. January 2, 1985, was the day the final polls came out to make it official. 

BYU has had many bowl moments that are not just memorable, but program defining. The hail Mary to win the 1980 Holiday Bowl. Quarterback Steve Young catching the game winning touchdown in the 1983 Holiday Bowl. John Walsh dissecting the Oklahoma defense in his final college football game that catapulted BYU to a Top 10 finish in the Coaches Poll that season. The Las Vegas Bowl wins, as well as Kyle Van Noy and Jamaal Williams having unforgettable games in the Poinsettia Bowl. It would be nice to have a holiday to remember all of the great bowl moments, but the National Championship shouldn't have to share its glory with anything else. Yes, it is that great of an achievement.

Noticeably absent from the defining bowl moments above is the Cotton Bowl. It doesn't feel right to group that day, that moment in with the rest of the bowls, either. Perhaps, I feel that way just because it was played on January 1, and it remains the only bowl game BYU has played in January. However, I think the significance of that season also contributes to that feeling. The 14-1 record, the number five ranking, and especially, the Bowl Alliance snub.

January 1 is the only day that makes sense to celebrate the Cotton Bowl holiday. That makes celebrating the National Championship on January 2 a little awkward--there aren't any real holidays that fall on back-to-back days. Perhaps the best solution is to celebrate the national championship on December 21, the Cotton Bowl/1996 season on January 1, and use December 28 as the general bowl celebration. BYU played in its first bowl game (Fiesta Bowl) on December 28, 1974.

As I said at the outset, I am open for suggestions on these, especially this dilemma.

January 1 - Cotton Bowl Day 
See above. 

January 29 - Steve Young Day 
This is the day in 1995 that Steve Young won the Super Bowl MVP after throwing a Super Bowl record six touchdown passes and quarterbacking the San Francisco 49ers to a 49-26 win in Super Bowl XXIX. He is the only BYU Cougar to win that award.

Because this did not happen while Young was wearing BYU blue, I find it acceptable to also call this BYU Super Bowl Day and remember and recognize all former Cougars who have played on football's biggest stage. Also, this holiday may be one that is better observed on a specific weekend, say every year on Super Bowl weekend, as opposed to January 29 itself.  
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