B-Y-Who? B-Y-Quarterback U!

Note: This was originally written when I was the BYU football correspondent for Isportsweb. This story has since been removed from their site, so I am reposting it here. 

My fellow Isportsweb team correspondent Dave Kahuna posted a piece entitled The Real Quarterback U and in it he proclaimed the University of Washington was the real quarterback university. I took that as a challenge. No way was I going to let Dave make this claim without stating the case for BYU.

Dave staked his claim that Washington is the real quarterback U on the fact that every Huskies starting quarterback, except one, since Warren Moon (1975-1977) has made it to the NFL (but should Washington really get credit for Moon since he took the CFL route to get to the NFL). In fact, Dave dared “any fan of any college team to produce a better record of success in placing quarterbacks into the NFL.” Well, Dave, I confess that Washington does have a better track record than my beloved Cougars at placing quarterbacks in the professional ranks (more on that later). However, Dave made this claim in 2010, which, coincidentally, will go down as the “Offseason of Expansion.” During all of the expansion speculation, we all found out that universities are judged on much more than job placement for graduates. Anyone who followed the conference expansion hysteria heard “research institution,” “endowment,” and “AAU membership” being thrown around and being given weight to a school’s worthiness to be included in an athletic conference. Furthermore, when we look at rankings like the Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report we find schools evaluated on many different categories, so job placement (read: “placing quarterbacks into the NFL”) should be just one part of the formula for deciding who is the real quarterback U.

I propose the following areas of evaluation (and the weight value for each area) to decide which school is the real quarterback U:

1. Quarterback Stats (30%). We all know what stats are important for quarterbacks: passing yards, touchdown passes, completion percentage, and passing efficiency. The stats will take into account season and career stats. (I wanted to include game stats, but game-by-game stats for the entire 35 year period were impossible to obtain.)

2. NCAA Records (35%). No school can lay claim on the title “Quarterback U” if they don’t have a sizable presence in the NCAA record books. Quarterback U infers that this school is not just a good passing school, but the best passing school. The best passers are the ones who set the records.

3. Awards and Accolades (15%). Just as with NCAA records, if you are Quarterback U, your quarterbacks better be bringing home some hardware, and that is on a national level. Conference player of the year and bowl MVP awards are nice, but they do nothing to settle a debate about being Quarterback U.

4. Win-Loss records (10%). While quarterbacks are not solely responsible for winning a game or losing a game, this position gets the most praise or the most criticism after a game. When the wins don’t pile up, the quarterback is the first one on the hot seat. It is widely accepted that it takes a good quarterback to win. The teams that end the year on top are the teams with good, if not great, quarterbacks.

5. Advancing to the NFL (10%). I agree with Dave that getting into the NFL should count for something, but I can’t put too much weight into it. As I look at the 2010 NFL draft, it is painfully obvious that the NFL places a lot of emphasis on uncontrollable measurables (height and weight) and not so much emphasis on controllable measurables (accuracy, decision making, reading defenses, efficiency). Injuries, new coaches, and roster depth are all factors to a player’s success in the NFL that are out of a university’s control. A school is very limited in even getting its players into the professional ranks. While I love to see former BYU players flourish in the NFL, it is very difficult to assess how much credit BYU can claim for that player’s success.

To keep the field level, I will start with 1975, just like Dave, which excludes Virgil Carter (1964-66) who set two NCAA records and spent 8 years in the NFL, and Gary Sheide (1973-74) who won the Sammy Baugh Trophy in 1974 and was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Quarterback Stats
For the stats category, we need to set some benchmarks for what qualifies as meritorious quarterback play.

Passing Yards
Season: 3,000 yards.
Career: 7,000 yards.

Touchdown Passes
Season: 30
Career: 60

Completion Percentage
Season: 63%
Career: 60%

Passing Efficiency
Season: 160.0 rating
Career: 145.0 rating

(Note: Prior to 2002, the NCAA did not include bowl game stats in player season and career totals. My analysis has applied the NCAA practice that was in place at the time of the game; therefore, I have not adjusted season or career stats to include bowl games prior to 2002.)

Since the first game of 1975, BYU quarterbacks have posted impressive stats summarized as follows:

Passing Yards
21 3,000-yard passing seasons
7 4,000-yard passing seasons
1 5,000-yard passing season

(Note: BYU quarterbacks were the first quarterbacks to throw for 4,000 and 5,000 yards in a season.)

4 QBs passed for 7,000 yards in their careers
3 QBs passed for 8,000 yards in their careers
1 QB passed for 9,000 yards in his career
2 QBs passed for 11,000 yards in their careers
1 QB passed for 15,000 yards in his career

Total yards passing (1975-2009): 129,742 (3,707 yards/year)

Touchdown Passes
11 seasons with 30+ TD passes
2 seasons with 40+ TD passes

3 QBs threw 60+ TD passes
1 QB threw 70+ TD passes
1 QB threw 80+ TD passes
1 QB threw 90+ TD passes
1 QB threw 120+ TD passes

Total touchdown passes (1975-2009): 960 (27.43 TD passes/year)

Completion Percentage
12 seasons with 63%+
1 season with 70%+

8 QBs completed 60%+ of passes in their careers
3 QBs completed 65%+ of passes in their careers

Completion percentage (1975-2009): 61.5% (9595 completions-15606 attempts)

Passing Efficiency
4 seasons with 160.0+
3 seasons with 170.0+

4 QBs have a 145.0+ rating for their careers
3 QBs have a 150.0+ rating for their careers
2 QBs have a 160.0+ rating for their careers

NCAA Records
BYU quarterbacks have set 173 NCAA records since 1975. Seven different quarterbacks account for these records, and, of the seven, five quarterbacks set 10 or more NCAA records.

Awards and Accolades
BYU quarterbacks are very well decorated. Since 1975, BYU quarterbacks have garnered the following awards and accolades:
  • 6 Sammy Baugh Trophies (7 all-time, which is more than any other school. The next closest school has 4).
  • 4 Davey O’Brien award winners (again, more than any other school.)
  • 9 different quarterbacks were named All-American on 12 different occasions, and five times those quarterbacks were consensus All-Americans.
  • 4 BYU quarterbacks (Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, and Steve Young) have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Two, maybe three more will be inducted (Robbie Bosco, Ty Detmer, and maybe Steve Sarkisian).
  • 1 Heisman Trophy
  • 1 Maxwell Award
  • Ty Detmer was named to the NCAA All-Decade team for the 1990s.
Win-Loss Records
BYU’s win loss record from 1975 to 2009 was 313-125-2 (0.714 winning percentage). This winning percentage is the 11th best in the nation during this time frame. Here’s how other good quarterback schools compare:

3. Florida State: 318-106-4 (0.748)
7. Miami (FL): 302-115 (0.724)
13. USC: 298-121-8 (0.707)
25. Washington: 250-161-3 (0.607)

Source: http://football.stassen.com/records/h-win-pct.html

As you can see, BYU would fit between Miami and USC. Florida State, Miami, BYU and USC are all comparable in their winning percentage over 35 years. The only school that has won significantly less often is Washington.

Some notable win-loss records of individual BYU quarterbacks during this span are:

Marc Wilson (1977-79): 23-5, 82.1%
Jim McMahon (1978, 1980-81): 25-3, 89.3%
Steve Young (1982-83): 20-6, 76.9%
Robbie Bosco (1984-85): 24-3, 88.9%
Ty Detmer (1988-91): 29-9-2, 75%
Steve Sarkisian (1995-96): 21-5, 80.7%
Brandon Doman (2000-01): 14-2, 87.5%
Max Hall (2007-09): 32-7, 82%

Advancing to the NFL
BYU has had nine quarterbacks drafted (three in the first round) since the end of the 1975 college football season. Here is a list of these quarterbacks:

Gifford Nielsen (3rd round, 1978)
Marc Wilson (1st round, 15th player overall, 1980)
Jim McMahon (1st round, 5th player overall, 1982)
Steve Young (USFL: 1st round, 11th player overall, NFL: 1st round, 1st player overall, 1984)
Robbie Bosco (3rd round, 1986)
Ty Detmer (9th round, 1992)
John Walsh (7th round, 1995)
Brandon Doman (5th round, 2002)
John Beck (2nd round, 2007)

Additionally, Kevin Feterik, Bret Engemann, and Max Hall signed free agent contracts. Feterik failed to make the team, but Engemann lasted for two seasons. Hall just graduated this year and all the reports out of Arizona indicate that his chances of making the team are good.

These 10 quarterbacks who graduated to the next level, plus Hall, started during 27 of the established 35 year time period.

Two quarterbacks (McMahon and Young) won Super Bowls. Only Alabama and Purdue have had more former quarterbacks (3) win super bowls. Young was the Super Bowl XXIX MVP, as well as the league MVP twice.

Gifford Nielsen (2003) and Steve Young (2009) are recipients of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award. This award recognizes former NCAA student-athletes who have excelled in their chosen professions. In both cases, their chosen professions included a NFL career.

B-Y-Who? B-Y-Quarterback U!
By now, I think it is clear to see that BYU was the original, and still is, Quarterback U. BYU has consistently excelled in all the areas of quarterbacking that not only bring honor and prestige to the university, but to the signal caller as well. For a high school quarterback looking for a complete university education in quarterbacking, BYU is the place to play. BYU has a program designed to fit whatever goals a high school quarterback has.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com