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After 12-2 opening, three straight losing seasons

12/1/2004 - BYU Cougars

PROVO, Utah -- Gary Crowton's tenure at BYU began with
tremendous promise and ended with the Cougars' worst struggles in
40 years.

Crowton agreed to resign Wednesday, ending his four-year stint
with BYU and months of speculation that this would be his last
season in his dream job.

He won his first 12 games at BYU, but that was as good as it
would get for the Utah native and former Cougars assistant.

BYU finished 5-6 this season and went 14-21 over the last three,
the school's worst three-year run since the early 1960s. BYU's
three consecutive losing seasons are the first for the school since
six in a row from 1959-64.

"At this time I feel like it's time for me to step down and let
the football program move on in a different direction," Crowton
said.

Crowton replaced LaVell Edwards after the 2000 season. Edwards
turned BYU into one of the most successful and entertaining
programs in the country before retiring after 29 years as Cougars
coach.

"When I took the job, following LaVell Edwards was the biggest
challenge," Crowton said.

Crowton spoke at a news conference before reporters and dozens
of BYU supporters, who applauded him as he walked out of the room
in the stadium named for his predecessor. He met later in the
afternoon with his players, who had expected a move was coming.

"I don't know if you can be prepared for a rumor to become a
reality, especially when you develop such a great relationship with
a coach as a man," tight end Phillip Niu said. "I have nothing
but good things to say about him."

BYU senior associate athletic director Tom Holmoe, a former NFL
assistant and coach at California, said he is not a candidate to
take over as coach. He said administrators suggested a change was
in order and Crowton agreed to resign with one year left on his
contract.

"We talked about the resignation and we talked about the future
of the program. What was best for him, what was best for the
players and the future," Holmoe said.

Crowton grew up just outside Provo in Orem, graduated from BYU
in 1983 and worked under Edwards.

He coached Louisiana Tech for three years, going 21-13, and was
offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears, when he was tapped by
BYU.

Crowton returned to Provo with a wide-open offense that was
prolific his first season and brought back memories of BYU at its
best, with Edwards guiding quarterbacks such as Steve Young, Jim
McMahon and Ty Detmer.

The Cougars started 12-0 under Crowton, making a run at breaking
into the Bowl Championship Series before losing their final two
games. He could never duplicate that success.

"I felt like I was up for the challenge to build it back up and
I've been trying to do that. It just hasn't come quite as fast as I
had hoped," Crowton said.

The 2003 season was BYU's worst in 30 years. The Cougars went
4-8, won only one home game and ended the season with a 3-0 loss to
rival Utah that snapped a 28-year run of not being shut out.

This season started out well with BYU beating Notre Dame 20-17.
The Cougars also came within a missed last-second field goal of
beating Boise State. They were 5-4 going into their final two
games.

Trying to become bowl eligible, the Cougars lost 21-14 at home
to New Mexico and ended the season with a 52-21 loss to the Utes in
Salt Lake City. Three of BYU's opponents -- Utah, Southern
California and Boise State -- are still unbeaten.

"It was tough to hear the news and see him go. I have a lot of
respect for him. He's done a lot for us," offensive lineman Jake
Kuresa said. "It was pretty rough, but if they feel like that's
what's best for the program, for the team, we have to just make the
best of it."

Crowton lost a strong supporter in the program when athletic
director Val Hale, a former high school teammate of Crowton's in
Orem, was fired Sept. 8.

Crowton said he wants to get back into coaching and would pursue
other job opportunities.

Lance Reynolds, a BYU assistant for 22 years, will take over as
interim coach while administrators search for a successor to
Crowton.

"I wish I would had gotten more wins," Crowton said. "In this
business, that's what it's about -- getting wins."