National champs: Cougars finished on top after going 13-0 in 1984

Published: Sunday, July 12 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

LaVell Edwards, left, is congratulated by Sen. Orrin Hatch and President Ronald Reagan after winning the 1984 title.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Editor's note: This is first in an eight-part series celebrating the 25th anniversary of BYU's 1984 national championship.

PROVO — Twenty-five years later, it reads kind of like a made-for-Disney movie script.

The story of BYU's improbable 1984 national football championship season had unlikely heroes (Adam Haysbert, for example), villains (Bryant Gumbel and Barry Switzer come to mind), dramatic moments (who can forget the image of Robbie Bosco hobbling around on one leg in the Holiday Bowl?), serendipitous events (one by one, teams ahead of the Cougars in the polls fell), an unmistakable underdog quality (devoid of star players at the time, BYU started the season unranked), a certain moxie (four fourth-quarter comebacks) and a penchant for accomplishing something unprecedented (how in the heck did a team from the Western Athletic Conference, from the Mountain Time Zone, win a national title?).

"The way it all came together, it almost had to work just the way it did for it to happen," recalls legendary coach LaVell Edwards. "It was a magical year."

Maybe it was magic. Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was destiny. Maybe the Cougars were somewhat lucky, too.

"In spite of everything we did, it still took a little bit of luck," admits Glen Kozlowski, a wide receiver on the '84 team. "It still came down to a lot of factors that we had no control over."

"It was the confluence of the right group of guys with the right scheme against the rest of the college football world of that moment," explains '84 offensive lineman Trevor Matich, who is now an ESPN college football analyst. "BYU was the mouse that roared. Nobody knew who we were. We were the first school nobody had ever heard of that rose up and grabbed the college football world by the neck and said, 'You will know who I am. You have no choice.' "

The 1984 season catapulted the BYU football program — as well as the LDS Church and the state of Utah — into the national consciousness.

"It was really crazy with all of the media (attention)," says Bosco. "I can remember after the Pitt game going up to Salt Lake with LaVell to be on Good Morning America. It was like, 'Why do they want to talk to us?' "

The season began with a stunning upset over No. 3 Pitt on the road and culminated in a victory over a Michigan team with a mediocre record in the Holiday Bowl — amid controversy as people around the country debated BYU's worthiness as the nation's top-ranked team.

The undefeated, 13-0 Cougars had to wait two weeks after defeating the Wolverines before officially being voted No. 1 by both the Associated Press and United Press International polls on Jan. 3, 1985, touching off a celebration around the state.

Not long after securing the national championship, Edwards visited the White House and met with President Ronald Reagan.

The season was hailed as a breakthrough of historic proportions.

BYU still stands as the last team to enter a season unranked and win a national championship. The Cougars are also the last team from a non-BCS conference to win a national title in football.

A quarter of a century later, for those who played on that national championship team, that accomplishment is sweeter than ever.

"This means more now, 25 years later, than it ever did up until this point," says Kozlowski. "Looking back on it now, it's like, wow, that's pretty cool what we did. Who would have ever thought that?"

"Looking back at my career, (the national championship) means a lot," says Bosco. "One of the great things about winning a national championship is the whole team is involved. It's a team award. You can celebrate that with everybody, and you can talk about it forever."

Commemorating 25 years

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