PROVO, Utah (AP) — LaVell Edwards, who led BYU to national prominence with his dynamic passing offenses and became one of the most successful coaches in college football history, has died. He was 86.
Athletic department spokesman Brett Pyne said Edwards died Thursday.
Edwards coached the Cougars for 29 seasons before retiring in 2000. He had a record of 257-101-3, the seventh-most wins in FBS history. His teams won or shared 19 conference titles and played in 22 bowl games. His 1984 team was voted national champion, and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
“He had an impact on so many lives, and not just as coach but as a person,” Cougars coach Kalani Sitake said. “So many people — players, coaches, fans, the entire BYU family, coaching colleagues and opponents — will tell you they are a better person because of him, and I’m definitely one of them. We all love LaVell and appreciate the amazing legacy he leaves with each of us.”
Edwards became BYU’s head coach in 1972, taking over a program that had just 14 winning seasons in 49 years. BYU won 10 straight Western Athletic Conference titles from 1976-85 and went to 17 consecutive bowls from 1978-94.
“Thoughts and prayers with the family of my good friend LaVell Edwards and the entire BYU family. A phenomenal coach but even better person!” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer tweeted.
Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon and Steve Young quarterbacked high-scoring offenses for Edwards from the 1970s into the ’80s. The Robbie Bosco-led 1984 team went 13-0 and was voted national champion, and quarterback Ty Detmer won the Heisman Trophy in 1990.
Edwards received national coach of the year awards in 1979 and ’84.
“I love LaVell Edwards. He came into my life, and the life of many others, at just the right time,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said. “I had the influence of a great coach, a wonderful person, a disciple of Christ, a loyal family man and a true friend, from the day I met him until the day he passed away. LaVell had a pure heart. He was the dream coach of every parent. His example will forever be with me and I will strive to live a life of love as he always did.”
Edwards grew up in Orem and was the eighth of 14 children. He was an all-conference lineman at Utah State before serving two years in the Army. He joined the BYU football staff in 1962 and was the team’s defensive coordinator when he was promoted to head coach. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Patti, and three children.
“Coach Edwards was a gentle giant of the gridiron — a humble yet confident leader who guided the BYU football program through decades of unprecedented success,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “He was a champion both on and off the field. For thousands of athletes and millions of fans across the nation, LaVell was far more than a steady presence on the sideline. He was a visionary leader, a father figure, and a trusted friend.”
Reactions from various public officials following Edwards’ death include:
Utah Gov. Gary Hebert:
Jeanette and I were saddened to learn of Coach LaVell Edwards’ passing this morning. The Edwards’ have been good friends to my family for many years. Of course LaVell will be remembered and revered as one of the great coaches of all time for the way he transformed BYU Football into a national powerhouse. But just as important is how he worked to transform young men into successful and better human beings. He truly cared about his players both on and off the field.
A big part of what made him such a legend was his example of excellence in sportsmanship — he always showed the utmost respect for his opponents. LaVell was not just a great coach, but more importantly, LaVell Edwards was a good man and a decent human being. He and his wife Patti have always been great examples to me about how to conduct one’s life.
LaVell was both a legend, and a friend. Our prayers are with Patti and entire Edwards family at this time. LaVell, you will be dearly missed.
Sen. Hatch’s complete statement:
I am deeply saddened by the passing of my good friend, LaVell Edwards. Coach Edwards was a gentle giant of the gridiron—a humble yet confident leader who guided the BYU football program through decades of unprecedented success. He was a champion both on and off the field. For thousands of athletes and millions of fans across the nation, LaVell was far more than a steady presence on the sideline; he was a visionary leader, a father figure, and a trusted friend.
I will be forever grateful for my own friendship with LaVell Edwards. He was not only one of the most successful coaches in college football history but one of the greatest men I ever knew. Today, my prayers are with Patti and all members of the Edwards family.
Sen. Mike Lee
Our thoughts and prayers are with Patti and the rest of the Edwards family today. They have all been inspirational leaders of our community for decades. Coach Edwards’ passing is a huge loss for our family, Brigham Young University, and the state of Utah.
BYU President Kevin J. Worthen
LaVell’s humble, humorous and loving character inspired not only his players, but countless others as well. All who knew him considered him a friend. His positive impact reached well beyond BYU and well beyond college football.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, via Facebook
Brigham Young University over Twitter
— BYU (@BYU) December 29, 2016
University of Utah football head coach Kyle Whittingham
Heartbreaking to hear the news of LaVell’s passing. He made such a positive impact on so many lives & was a loyal family friend.
— Kyle Whittingham (@UtahCoachWhitt) December 29, 2016
University of Utah
We are saddened to hear of the passing of Lavell Edwards. A true football legend. He will be greatly missed!
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) December 29, 2016
Story by the Associated Press
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Reactions to Edwards’ death compiled by St. George News senior reporter Mori Kessler