Crowton’s departure impacts students, community

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    By Bremen Leak

    “This program is bigger than just me Gary Crowton,” the coach said from the Cougar Room, deep at the heart of the football stadium that sees upwards of 64,000 fans per game.

    As the news settled in across campus, Crowton”s words rang true like the carillon”s bronze bells on a cold, crisp day.

    “It”s kind of a heartbreaker,” said Cougar fan Jacob Lybbert, who has not missed a home game this year. The 24-year-old Washington native was part of a group of students lobbying to “save Crowton” through the sale of T-shirts, an endeavor he said was successful in correcting misconceptions about the program.

    Still others were prepared for change, and a winning season. After a disappointing record, some fans said the time for a change had come.

    “I feel sorry for Coach Crowton and his family,” said one alumnus attending the press conference, who asked to remain anonymous, “but the program needs to get moving in a new direction.”

    For BYU law student Yasser Sanchez, a season ticket holder for five years, that new direction means bringing excitement back to the game.

    “Coach Crowton put his heart and effort into it, but maybe it was time for a new direction for the team,” he said. “BYU students love BYU football, and they show up to the games no matter who the coach is. But it helps to have excitement . . . I think a new coach will only take us in a better direction.”

    The news came suddenly, a year before Crowton”s 5-year contract was to end, but not necessarily as a surprise for everyone.

    “I wasn”t really surprised, but I would have given him one more year, rather than let him end his contract,” said Willis Nielson, a marketing major from Las Vegas.

    Jarom Sidwell, a German major from Modesto, Calif., said he thought Crowton”s team was finally making progress.

    “It started to look like we were playing real football,” Sidwell said. “So it kind of comes as a surprise that he resigned . . . but I know there was a lot of pressure from the public and everything.”

    With Crowton”s resignation, many fans expect a winning season next year. Others believe the change will not relieve the team of its unique problems.

    “At BYU it”s a little bit more difficult than at other colleges because people leave on missions, and there”s just not that continuity that that there usually is with a lot of other college teams,” said Marissa Henneman, a nursing major from Boise, Idaho. “I think it”s kind of hard for [Crowton]. It”s not entirely his fault.”

    Like Crowton, who had big shoes to fill after legendary head coach LaVelle Edwards” retirement, Crowton”s successor must mesh with 17 returning starters. Creating the necessary chemistry could be a challenge, some fans said.

    “Obviously, a coach is a big part of a team and holds the whole team together,” said Brooke Svendsen, a Provo native studying communications and film. “We can have talent, but if it doesn”t mix well with the coach, we”re not going to be successful.”

    After Crowton”s short-lived career, many fans will remember the coach for his courage and character, and for putting BYU football above himself.

    When the carillon sounds next fall, the masses will gather for a game. Hearing its music, Crowton will know “for whom the bell tolls”: not for himself or for the next man, but for the team, and for the Cougar community.

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