LaVell Edwards interview for Education Week


    Q: As a prominent public figure, what do you do or where do you go to get away from the world and find peace?

    A: My home. Early in my career I determined that I would not bring the problems of my work home with me. For the most part, I have been able to do that.

    Q: What do you consider your personal shelter from the storm?

    A: My belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the testimony I have of the Savior and His atonement.

    Q: Many people think the answers to life’s questions lie in fame, wealth and power. How do you keep a balance between work and your personal life?

    A: My testimony helps me to establish priorities in my life. The goals and successes of my professional life pale in comparison to my personal goals of an eternal family, receiving exaltation and being with the Savior again.

    Q: How do you deal with publicity? Does it ever get too invasive?

    A: Publicity can become invasive at times. A good friend of mine, Bill Coltrin, was a sportswriter for the Salt Lake Tribune while I was coaching football at Granite High School in Salt Lake. One day I was complaining to him about what I thought was an unfair article about our team. I was going to call the writer and complain to him. Bill told me, “If you plan to stay in this business (coaching), you need to realize a couple of things about the press. One, whatever is written, it will probably be forgotten in two or three days by the public; and two, if you complain or make an enemy of the writer, just remember you may have your ‘day in the sun,’ but he/she is going to press 365 days a year.” I have never forgotten that as it was magnified many-fold at BYU. It’s hard sometimes, particularly when they take personal digs at the coaches or the players.

    Q: How did you prepare early in life to get where you are? What or who influenced the way you look at the world?

    A: Professionally – I had the opportunity to play sports throughout my youth, in high school and college. Early on, I decided I wanted to be a coach so I tried to learn everything I could about all positions on the team. I went to many coaching clinics, talked to other coaches, read articles, books, etc. Anything I could do that would help me prepare to be the best coach possible. Fortunately, the coaches I had as a player were good men and were excellent role models in setting priorities and relating to the team members and coaching staff.

    Personally – I also continued my education while I was coaching, attending night school and summer school, taking correspondence courses, etc. I received my Master’s degree from the University of Utah while coaching at Granite High School. I obtained my doctorate from BYU while coaching. I pursued these degrees to prepare myself if coaching didn’t work out.

    Q: How did your education influence what you do now?

    A: Even though I did not go into college teaching, I believe the education I did receive helped me to become a better coach. Much of coaching consists of teaching and communicating ideas, concepts and philosophies to the players and my education helped make me a much more effective coach.

    Q: How do you deal with people who solicit you for favors?

    A: In the early years, I was able to accommodate most of the requests and favors that came my way, but as the requests multiplied, I had to make tough choices because the numbers were more than I could handle. I had to come up with some criteria to help me; i.e., what the favor was, if it was legitimate, if it was in no way compromising, and if there would be a benefit some way by my participation.

    Q: How do you choose who to help and who to pass by, in light of the Church’s focus and policies on charitable contributions?

    A: I try to give to most legitimate requests, but the amount of my contribution and my personal time varies greatly. Along with church monies and the United Way, most of the others that I give the most to are organizations for which I have some personal connection in that they have affected family members; i.e., kidney, cancer, heart, and organ donation. My wife and I have also contributed to and been heavily involved with the Boys and Girls Club of Utah County.

    Q: Was there a single turning point in your life that you consider “made” you?

    A: Personal – Meeting and marrying Patti, my wife of 51 years.

    Professional – The Wyoming game in 1974, my third year as head coach. My first year, we were 7-4; the second year, we went 5-6; the third year started out 0-3-1. Some of the players got together and had a team meeting to get a few things straightened out. Starting with the Wyoming game, we won 6 straight games and won our first conference championship, the second in BYU’s history. We went to the Fiesta Bowl, the first of many bowl games for the Cougars.

    Q: Is it difficult to live your religion? Why or why not?

    A: Once I made the commitment to fully live my religion, it was never a problem. The difficulty in living our religion is when we haven’t totally made the commitment necessary. If we have to go through a mental exercise, yes or no, every time we are faced with a tough decision, we will continue to have trouble with living what we supposedly believe.

    Q: Has your affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put up any roadblocks on your path to success, or have you found it has opened doors?

    A: Being a member of the Church has never placed any roadblocks in my personal and professional life. Not playing on Sunday has caused problems for other organizations or teams who wanted us to do so, but we never had to think twice about such a decision.

    Q: Do you consider yourself an example to church members, especially the youth of the church?

    A: I hope I’ve been a good example to the youth of the church. I know the team, as a whole, has had an impact on the youth of the church, and on the missionary efforts throughout the world.

    Q: If you could have done something differently with your life, what would it have been?

    A: I can’t think of anything I would do differently in my life. It would be nice to undo some of my mistakes I made over the years, but then I wouldn’t have grown professionally or personally.

    Q: What are your goals for the future?

    A: One of our goals was to serve a mission, which we are now doing. After that, we want to keep our family together eternally, be of service in whatever way possible, and endure to the end!

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