By CHRIS WILSON
Although BYU will belong to the Mountain West Conference next year, the football team’s 19 WAC championships will remain in the WAC’s record books for at least 17 more years, maybe 18 if the Cougars can win Saturday.
Since the WAC began operations in 1962, BYU has won the WAC title outright 13 times and has shared the title with other WAC teams six times. Arizona State, which deserted the WAC for the PAC-10, and Wyoming have each won seven WAC championships.
Colorado State and New Mexico have each won three WAC championships, but these universities will leave the WAC next year along with Air Force, which has won two titles. The beneficiary of the emigration from the WAC will be Fresno State, which has won two shared championships and will be the team with the highest number of titles left.
BYU head coach LaVell Edwards said the key to the Cougars’ domination of the WAC has been the continuity of the coaching staff and the players the university has recruited.
“We haven’t had a lot of turn over; we’ve been together for a long time,” Edwards said about his staff.
Edwards will coach the Cougars in their final appearance in the WAC, competing as underdogs for a possible 20th championship for BYU. A win would give Edwards 19 titles in his tenure as head coach.
“(Beating Air Force) would be a great way to end this portion of the WAC,” he said. “It would give us great momentum going into the bowl game, defeating a highly ranked team. I think whenever you have those kind of opportunities, it makes it exciting.”
Offensive coordinator Norm Chow said BYU has had so much success because of Edwards’ steady leadership. No matter if the team wins or gets blown out, when the team comes to practice on Monday, the players know what is expected, he said.
“I think there are too many coaches that get too emotionally involved,” he said. “When they lose, they bring them back, they scream at them, they yell at them. And when they win, yeah they’re buddies. You get that uneven effort, but LaVell Edwards is the same always.”
BYU defeated Wyoming in the inaugural WAC Championship game in 1996. The championship game was initiated to allow the top teams in both of the WAC’s divisions to play for the WAC title.
BYU Associate Athletic Director Val Hale said the NCAA has a rule that allows championship games only if a conference has a minimum of 12 teams divided into two divisions. The WAC jumped from a 10-team conference to a two-division, 16-team conference prior to the 1996 season, allowing the conference to schedule a championship game between the Mountain and Pacific divisions.