Dick Harmon: The Wizard returns: Former BYU head coach Gary Crowton front and center at SUU

Published: Saturday, April 12 2014 5:20 p.m. MDT

Crowton left the CFL midseason 2013 and returned to St. George. That’s when SUU athletic director Ken Beazer told Lamb that Crowton was just hanging around 45 minutes south and he ought to check it out. Beazer played for Crowton at Snow College. A few phone calls later, they had an agreement but held off on an announcement in case Crowton got a call for an NFL job.

“He could have done a lot of other things for more money, but he really wanted to coach here,” said Lamb. “He’s still getting paid under contract from Winnipeg.”

Crowton feels the SUU love. Lamb was his graduate assistant when he was BYU’s head coach. Beazer and SUU provost Brad Cook played for him at Snow.

Football is tattooed on Crowton’s DNA and always will be. He’s had chances to do other things in life, even make more money outside football. But like a magnet, the game always draws him in. In all his years, he says the biggest takeaway has been the players — it’s always about the players. “It’s about your relationships, trying to help them become better players and people and you cultivate those relationships.”

Lamb challenged his team to be the strongest squad around and implemented a six-day conditioning program, promising his players he’d do it all alongside them. Crowton didn’t blink an eye at the challenge and with Lamb does all the lifts in the weight room the players do, six times a week.

Crowton said his goals for SUU include implementing his fast-paced spread passing attack. He may throw in a little option and let his quarterback run.

The veteran coach has run many offenses. He brought the read-option to Oregon, bringing in a friend at New Hampshire, Chip Kelly. “I don’t take all the credit for what they’ve done, but I helped install that offense,” he said.

During four years at LSU, the Tigers played conservative, big-boy, power football. They limited offensive plays but pounded the ball, keeping the defense fresh, wearing down opponents, and winning in the fourth quarter.

At BYU, with the use of Brandon Doman and Luke Staley, Crowton got the Cougars to an undefeated 12-0 record in 2001 before losing at Hawaii. With the right personnel in Provo his first season, Crowton triggered an explosive offense, similar to the one he had at LA Tech, albeit with less of the zone read-option.

Crowton likes to run things wide open — because, as he puts it, “it’s more fun.”

At Baton Rouge, things weren’t always wide open. Even so, Crowton said he loved his time at LSU and claimed he’d still be there if he hadn’t gotten sick.

He was jogging one day and developed pleurisy in his lungs. “Doctors thought I had some tumors, but it was pleurisy. Then after that I had a hernia that required surgery. One day I got hit in practice and knocked two teeth out and broke my wrist. That required 11 screws in my wrist. I just got worn down from those injuries and traveling. I developed two blood clots, one in my leg. My lung collapsed and I developed pneumonia, so they put me in the hospital. I knew I was really sick.

“It was the the physical grind at LSU that led me to leave.”

At Maryland in 2011, Crowton quickly had a disagreement with the head coach over treatment of players and just didn’t feel healthy. Those two things led Crowton to hold back on signing a contract. The athletic director learned of the delay and let Crowton go. The contract was worth a million dollars for two years.

“We parted ways and that’s when I went to the CFL in 2012. I didn’t have to recruit and had six months to get well, rest and get back in shape.”

Crowton carpools with another coach from St. George to Cedar City and Lamb says he hasn’t missed a weight room workout session yet. He and his wife Maren have four daughters and three sons. He currently has a son on an LDS mission. His son recently graduated cum laude at USU.

Crowton says he keeps in contact with his coaching friends, including BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall, whom he hired to coach the Cougar defense. “We trade texts about every week during the season.”

When at BYU, he also brought in current inside linebackers coach Paul Tidwell, defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi and former offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, whom Crowton helped get a job at LSU after he was the O-line coach at Auburn and Virginia Tech. Crowton hired current BYU quarterback coach Jason Beck to help at LSU, where the Crowton offense set LSU school records for yardage, points and plays run in a BCS championship-winning season.

Crowton said he and Lamb are on the same page as to what he wants to do with the offensive style and sets.

Any mad scientist stuff?

“Well, at times. It works in practice,” he laughed.

Gary Crowton's coaching career

1982 Brigham Young (GA)

1983 Snow College (DB)

1984-1986 Snow College (OC)

1987 Western Illinois (OC)

1988-1990 New Hampshire (OC)

1991-1993 Boston College (QB)

1994 Georgia Tech (co-OC)

1995 Louisiana Tech (OC)

1996-1998 Louisiana Tech (HC)

1999-2000 Chicago Bears (OC)

2001-2004 Brigham Young (HC)

2005-2006 Oregon (OC)

2007-2010 LSU (OC)

2011 Maryland (OC)

2012-2013 Winnipeg Blue Bombers (OC

2014-present Southern Utah (OC, QB)

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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