BYU football: A decade later, LaVell Edwards reflects on his final season

Published: Monday, Aug. 16 2010 11:00 p.m. MDT

Paul James was the longtime "Voice of the Cougars."

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

PROVO — In the annals of BYU football, Aug. 17, 2000, was the beginning of the end of an era.

It was ten years ago today that legendary coach LaVell Edwards announced his decision to retire at the conclusion of that season, capping an amazing 29-year head coaching career with the Cougars.

"It's hard to believe this is the 10th year that I haven't been coaching," Edwards, who turns 80 in October and is the sixth-winningest coach in NCAA history, told the Deseret News this week. "I look around and wonder where it's all gone. But (wife) Patti and I are always doing something. It's been a nice 10 years."

LaVell and Patti have not slowed down much during retirement. They served a church mission to New York City, and they are involved in a lot of charities, including the Boys and Girls Club. "I do a fair amount of speaking, mostly to church groups," Edwards said. "Our health has been good. So we've been fortunate that way. We travel a little bit. One way or another, we seem to keep busy. My time isn't all spent playing golf. But I do play."

The day he announced his impending retirement, Edwards told his players first, in the morning during a team meeting.

"It was a very touching, sentimental meeting," remembered Brandon Doman, who was one of BYU's quarterbacks at the time and now serves as the Cougars' quarterbacks coach. "We were stunned and saddened at the same time. It was emotional. More than anything, it was a feeling of gratitude for all that he had done, who he is, and what he represents. I was the fourth of four boys in my family to play for him. We had love and admiration for him. We felt a sense of urgency to have a great season for him."

In the afternoon, the school held a news conference, officially launching Edwards' farewell tour. Then-BYU President Merrill J. Bateman called the occasion "an historic day in the history of Brigham Young University. This is an historic day in the history of American football."

Tributes began pouring in from all over the country. But Edwards still had one last season to go — opening the 2000 season against No. 2 ranked and defending national champion Florida State.

Edwards had decided that his coaching career was over the previous January, weeks after his team lost badly to Marshall in the Motor City Bowl. A news conference to make the announcement was set for a day in February, 2000. But Edwards experienced a change of heart and decided to return for one final season.

"I knew it was going to be my last. I didn't like the way it ended the year before," recalled Edwards, who earned 257 victories, 19 conference titles and one national championship at BYU. "We lost our last three games, and we weren't accustomed to that. I decided to go one more time. That's why I announced it at the beginning of the season. I wanted to save the speculation (about the future). I didn't want to go through all of that."

Edwards had always believed he would finish his last season and then announce his retirement, not the other way around.

"Honestly, I had never, ever in my wildest dreams believed I would ever do this," Edwards said during that news conference a decade ago. "All I wanted to do was to play it out and when it was time to go hang it up, take off and sail into the sunset somewhere."

However, leading up to the 2000 season, as he began to fielding questions from recruits and current players, asking him if he would still be coaching beyond 2000. He told them the truth. He told them no. Besides, he had already grown weary of the speculation on his future and wanted to eliminate distractions. So he decided to let the world know his intentions. He wanted to focus on football.

That season, the Cougars endured a quarterback controversy during fall camp. Then Florida State, and Edwards' good friend, coach Bobby Bowden (who retired after the 2009 season), pounded the Cougars, 29-3, in the Pigskin Classic in Jacksonville, Fla.

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