Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014

Peavler: Looking back at BYU athletics under Cecil O. Samuelson (12 items)

By , Deseret News

April 30, 2014

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.

1 of 12. Jimmermania

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.

2 of 12. 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.

3 of 12. 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.

4 of 12. 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.

5 of 12. 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.