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, died Thursday, athletic department spokesman Brett Pyne said.
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.
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“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, Utah, 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.”