PROVO — If Marc Lyons could script his final BYU football broadcast at the conclusion of 38 seasons, it would probably take place on New Year’s Day at the illustrious Fiesta Bowl in warm and sunny Arizona, and the game would feature two ranked teams.
Instead, he’ll be in chilly Boise as the Cougars (6-6) battle Western Michigan (7-5) in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 21.
That aside, this contest will mark the end of an era for Lyons — and for all of the fans that have listened to him explain the game for decades.
“It’s not totally set in with me. The enjoyment I have, of course, is still being part of the game,” Lyons said. “It will be hard for me to be kind of detached from BYU football a little bit more. At the time that it turned out it was going to be my last year, every game has had a little more significance to me. The whole season was going to be the end of it all. The last game will be a little bit more significant, knowing I won’t be back in the booth again.”
For Lyons, who has been the radio color analyst for BYU football games since 1980, his career has, in a way, come full circle.
The last time the Cougars beat Western Michigan was 50 years ago — in 1968. Lyons was BYU’s quarterback and he threw a touchdown pass against the Broncos in a season-opening 17-7 victory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. BYU finished the season with a 2-8 record.
“Even though we weren’t spectacular,” Lyons recalled, "it was a win.”
There have been other deja vu moments for Lyons this season. For example, one of his first broadcasts was in 1980 at Wisconsin, where the Cougars won. In September, BYU won again at Camp Randall Stadium, upsetting the then-No. 6 Badgers.
Lyons has witnessed, and described, some of the greatest moments in BYU football history; and he's also witnessed, and described, some of the lowest moments, too.
“I’ve called 30 bowl games. I think there are 535 games that I’ve seen in person or called,” he said. “I don’t think there’s another person living that’s called, or seen, more BYU football games in person.”
When Lyons started out as a color analyst, his play-by-play partner was the legendary Paul James, who passed away in October. Since 2001, Lyons has been paired with the current Voice of the Cougars, Greg Wrubell.
Wrubell doesn’t even want to think about this being Lyons’ final broadcast.
“I’m not acknowledging it. I’m putting it off until the last minute. It’s kind of a stark realization coming up here. Knowing 'this is it' is kind of hard to deal with,” he said. “I’ve never called a football game with anybody else. I’ve had to use different replacements for (basketball analyst) Mark Durrant for basketball games over the years. But in football, it’s always just been the two of us. Since I took over for Paul, we’ve never missed a game together. We’ve done every game together since 2001. That fact alone is remarkable.”
Wrubell and Lyons have forged a strong relationship.
“He’s more than just a broadcast partner for me. He’s a dear friend. He’s somebody that I’m as close to as anybody else in my life. He’s a perfect partner,” Wrubell said. “He is such a good man, such a gentle soul. He’s warm, he’s genuine, he’s a perfect person to want to spend a lot of time around and a lot of time with. We’ve spent a lot of time with each other. From a personality standpoint, he’s the perfect fit for me. I kind of occupy one end of the emotional spectrum and he kind of occupies the other.
“I really can’t imagine putting on the headset and not having him there. He’s been the ultimate safety net. He’s been the ultimate security blanket for me,” Wrubell continued. “Every time I get in the booth and put on a headset with him next to me, I just feel comfortable, like it’s going to be a great day because he’s where he is. I’ve always felt that way.”
During BYU’s final home game of the season against New Mexico State on Nov. 17, Lyons was chosen to run out the alumni flag before kickoff, and then he was honored on the field at halftime. His family was by his side and some of his former Cougar teammates attended the game as well.
“It was beyond belief for me. It was the highlight of everything that’s happened to me at BYU. It was pretty overwhelming,” he said. “For me, to run the flag out was totally awesome. It was one of my lifetime dreams to be an alum and run out the flag. It was special. I appreciated everything that was done by all of the BYU people.”
As Wrubell's broadcast partner in the booth, Lyons came up with a signature phrase before every kickoff, saying to Wrubell, “Greg, my boy, it’s a great day for a football game.”
The expression originated organically, Wrubell said.
“I don’t ever remember it not being a thing. It had to have happened early in our tenure together,” he explained. “I think it was one of those spectacular, sunny Saturdays at LaVell Edwards Stadium when it probably just came out. I liked the way it sounded. Whether or not we ever talked about making it a regular part of our routine, I don’t recall. I can’t remember not having it as part of our day. It’s who Marc is. It’s folksy. I was always the younger guy. I was relatively young when I started doing games with Marc. I was younger and he was a little older. It made sense that he would refer to me that way. As old as I’ve gotten, I’m still able to feel young on game days when he says, ‘Greg, my boy.’ Every time I hear it, it brings a smile to my face. It’s just perfect.”
No doubt, Lyons has enjoyed his 38 years of providing analysis for BYU games.
“It’s been fun going to places all over the country and seeing games against Oklahoma, Nebraska, Michigan and Notre Dame,” he said. “It’s been great to be part of a national championship year. It’s been a good ride.”
Wrubell is grateful for the chance to call one more BYU game with Lyons.23 comments on this story
"I know there will be moments during that bowl broadcast that it will hit me repeatedly that this is our last broadcast together, like when he says ‘Greg, my boy’ for the final time, and the many times during the game when he says things in the way only he can say them," he said. "Certainly, when we have our postgame conversations with the audience to end the show, I’ll give Marc the last word. The last words of the broadcast won’t be mine. They’ll belong to Marc. Whatever he wants to say, he’ll say. Then it will hit me again once I try to do a game without him next year. That will be hard, too. But I’ll try to be as happy as I can about it as opposed to sad. He deserves it to be a happy, joyous occasion. I really want it to be a celebration and thankfulness for all he’s done for the program and Cougar Nation.”