On May 1, 2003, Cecil O. Samuelson became the 12th president of BYU.

A lot has changed since then, especially as far as athletics are concerned.

Val Hale was BYU's athletic director. Gary Crowton was the football head coach and Steve Cleveland was over basketball. BYU was still in the Mountain West Conference. No one even imagined then that the Cougars would one day be a FBS independent. BYU had KBYU, but it was your typical PBS station.

It's been a wild ride over the last 11 years with Samuelson. Now, as he rides into the sunset, it's time to look back at what happened with BYU athletics.

Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.


Regardless of what Jimmer Fredette's legacy in the NBA will be, he was a once-in-a-lifetime player at BYU.

Fredette scored 2,599 points over his four years as a Cougar. While Tyler Haws will likely break Fredette's school career-scoring record next season, BYU fans will always remember Fredette's junior and senior seasons.

There were games where Fredette was simply unstoppable. His first huge game was on Dec. 28, 2010, when he dropped 49 at Arizona. Over his final two seasons, he scored 40 or more points six times, including a 47-point performance against rival Utah.

Fredette helped BYU get past the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Dave Rose in 2010. Then in 2011, Fredette and the Cougars made it to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since Danny Ainge led the team in 1981.

Independence day

BYU's decision to become a FBS independent is the longest-reaching athletic decision the university made under Samuelson.

And it's a decision BYU fans will be debating for years to come.

BYU's reasons are clear enough. Rival and, ironically enough, best friend Utah had left for the Pac-12, and the Cougars were bogged down under a terrible TV deal.

So far, BYU has been able to make independence work in a way that most teams wouldn't. The Cougars have their own TV network and a deal with ESPN. You certainly can't call independence a failure, but it's not an overwhelming success, either.

In short, the jury is still out. We'll have to wait and see how things shake out with college football.

Whoosh Cecil!

There's one tradition involving Samuelson personally that appears will continue after his time at BYU is over:

The "Whoosh Cecil."

After every made free throw, the ROC yells "Whoosh Cecil!" and points toward Samuelson when he's in the stands. Samuelson shows his appreciation for the cheer with a thumbs up.

I asked several members of the ROC at the 2013 WCC Tournament if they would continue to say "Whoosh Cecil" after he's gone, and they all said yes. “’Whoosh, Cecil’ is staying as a memorial,” Joel Brandon Richards told me. “As for me and my house, we will ‘Whoosh, Cecil.’”

We'll see how long this really sticks around as these students graduate. Still, don't be surprised to hear the ROC shout "Whoosh Cecil" every time BYU makes a free throw next season.

Athletic director Tom Holmoe

One of the best moves Samuelson made during his presidency was to hire Tom Holmoe as the athletic director.

Holmoe has been instrumental with BYU's transition from the Mountain West to independence. Many people don't realize how hard it is to schedule without eight or nine conference games already in place.

Holmoe has scheduled some solid games since BYU went independent, including the home-and-home with Texas, games at Michigan and Nebraska in 2015, a six-year agreement with Notre Dame, a 12-year deal with Boise State, the Wisconsin game last season and future games against West Virginia (2016), Arizona (four games), Stanford (four games) and USC (three games).

Under the circumstances, Holmoe has done a fantastic job. While the jury is still out on independence, it wouldn't have worked nearly as well without Holmoe.

The End of the Gary Crowton Era

BYU football was in a bad place when Samuelson took over in 2003. The Cougars went a disappointing 5-7 in 2002 and would finish 2003 with just four wins.

Then, the bottom fell out as BYU football players got wrapped up in a sex scandal in December 2004. BYU finished the season 5-6 and Crowton resigned.

While those were undoubtedly dark days for BYU, there are those, including Mitch Harper at Lawless Republic, who argue that Crowton's tenure wasn't as bad as everyone thinks.

Still, no BYU fan will look back to 2003-04 with fondness.

The rivalry

BYU's football record against Utah during Samuelson's tenure was a disappointing 3-8, and those eight losses include two of BYU's worst losses since LaVell Edwards came to Provo:

3-0 in 2003 and 54-10 in 2011.

That said, BYU's three wins against the Utes were three of the most memorable in rivalry history. Who can forget the "Answered Prayer" (2006), "4th and 18" (2007) and "George Is Still Running" (2009).

And while football has struggled against the Utes, basketball has a better record against Utah, finishing 13-8 during Samuelson's time at BYU. It's interesting that BYU's first season without Samuelson will also be the first season where BYU won't play Utah in either football since 1946.

Championship rugby

Rugby has thrived at BYU over the last few years of Samuelson's tenure.

The Cougars have won three national championships since 2009, and they're playing for their fourth title against Cal on Saturday. Plus, BYU was instrumental in gathering the best of the best of college rugby to create the Varsity Cup Rugby Championship.

While rugby isn't a NCAA-sanctioned sport at BYU, no one can dispute its success.

Bronco Mendenhall era

Bronco Mendenhall's time at BYU has been generally positive.

Mendenhall's best four seasons were 2006-09. Over that period, the Cougars went 43-9, won the Mountain West Conference twice, finished ranked in both major polls all four years and finished as high as No. 12 in 2009.

Since then, BYU has finished in the Top 25 just once (No. 25 in the final 2011 Coaches Poll) and posted a 33-19 record.

It certainly could be worse, but some BYU fans are starting to get restless.

Mendenhall's tenure hasn't been free from the occasional stumble (Quest for Perfection, anyone?), but for the most part he's been steady. Cougar fans can expect BYU to make a bowl game year in and year out. With Tuesday's official announcement that the Cougars will play at the Miami Beach Bowl if they get bowl-eligible, BYU fans can start booking their hotel rooms now.

The rise of Dave Rose

Steve Cleveland's career at BYU was generally positive. He went 138-108 over eight seasons, and he took the Cougars to NCAA Tournament three times. However, he finished the 2004-05 season with just nine wins, and BYU decided to move in a different direction.

Enter Dave Rose.

BYU has never missed the postseason nor won less than 20 games in Rose's nine years in Provo. He has an impressive 232-78 record over that time, along with four regular-season conference titles, seven NCAA Tournament appearances, a trip to the Round of 32 and BYU's first Sweet Sixteen game since 1981.

And with highly rated recruits such as T.J. Haws and Nick Emery entering the program after they serve their missions, BYU has to feel great about its future.

BYU's sweet women's basketball team

While head coach Jeff Judkins has been around longer than Samuelson, he's done some remarkable things during the president's tenure.

Last season, Jennifer Hamson and the Cougars became only the third team in women's NCAA Tournament history to make it to the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 12 seed. BYU pulled off solid upsets over both N.C. State and Nebraska before losing to UConn.

BYU women's basketball is 239-112 since Samuelson came to Provo, and they've been to the NCAA Tournament four times and the WNIT four times.

Incredible volleyball

The men's volleyball team won the national championship in 2004, and the Cougars are on their way to the semifinals against Stanford on Thursday. There's a decent chance that the Cougars could win their fourth national championship, but that championship would be the first under new BYU's new president, Kevin J Worthen.

And if you haven't taken the time to see Taylor Sander play, you've missed out on an incredible athlete.

Unfortunately, the volleyball program was the first BYU team to get hit with NCAA sanctions after the case of Yosleyder Cala. Still, the past 11 years have been generally good for BYU volleyball.

Best of the rest

  • Josh Rohatinsky won the 2006 men's cross country national championship.
  • Leif Arrhenius won a national title in 2011 at the shot put.
  • The women's soccer team reached the Elite Eight at the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
  • Jennifer Hamson became an All-American in both basketball and women's volleyball.
  • The Detriot Lions drafted Ziggy Ansah with the No. 5 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.