BYU’s rich sports tradition has produced many memorable teams throughout the years. Here’s a countdown of the top five best sports teams to play at BYU.
5. 2010–11 men’s basketball
This is the only team on the list that did not win a national championship, but those who watched the team can understand why they cracked the top five. Jimmer Fredette led the fury throughout the season that saw the team rank as high as No. 2 in the nation in some polls. The Cougars finished the season at 32-5, reaching the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, losing to Florida in a closely fought game.
Fredette earned the John R. Wooden National Player of the Year Award, joining Danny Ainge as the only other winner of the award. Fredette averaged 28.9 points per game, shooting nearly 40 percent from three-point range. During the season, senior Jackson Emery broke Ainge’s all-time steals record at BYU, a record that had stood since 1981.
Of interest: Fredette was drafted 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2011 NBA Draft and was then traded to the Sacramento Kings. He later played for the Chicago Bulls and was signed by the New Orleans Pelicans this offseason.
- 1981 men’s golf
Winning a national championship is no small accomplishment in and of itself, but winning the first outright National Championship in school history makes it that much sweeter. This was what the 1981 BYU men’s golf team achieved. After finishing second in 1980, the Cougars fought back to claim the championship in 1981. It was no surprise to other programs around the country, because the Cougars had finished in the top five in the NCAA Championships for eight straight years prior to the 1981 season. BYU won the WAC Championship by 22 strokes, preceding their magical run at the NCAA title in Stanford, California.
The championship came down to the last three holes of the final round, and BYU held a one-stroke lead over Oral Roberts but was able to close it out. Dick Zokol paced the BYU squad throughout the tournament, including a sensational second round 66, and finished eighth overall in the tournament.
Of interest: Zokol, Keith Clearwater and Barry Willardson were All-Americans. Clearwater, Fehr and Zokol all played on the PGA Tour. BYU had no individual tournament winner throughout the season.
- 2004 men’s volleyball
It was a heck of a season for the 2004 NCAA Men’s Volleyball National Champions that included many come-from-behind victories, led by head coach Tom Peterson. At one point in the season, the team held a 21-match winning streak. On May 8, 2004, in the championship match, BYU faced rival Long Beach State in one of the most intense matches of the season. The Cougars defeated their rivals, the 49ers, for the fourth time of the 2004 season in a heated five-game match.
“I don’t know how many people realize how hard it is to win a championship,” head coach Tom Peterson said at the time. “To even win in our league is an amazing accomplishment, a huge deal. To actually win the championship is one of the best things that has happened in my professional career.”
Of interest: This team had four All-Americans, and Carlos Moreno became the first AVCA National Player of the Year in team history.
2. 2001 women’s cross country
2001 was the culmination of a run of dominance for the BYU women’s cross country team. The 2001 team may have been the most dominant in program history. The Cougars won their third national championship in five years In 2001; the BYU women’s cross country team simply dominated the field on the way to its third national title in the past five years. The Cougars beat runner-up N.C State by 86 points, one of the largest margins in NCAA history. BYU had three runners finish in the top 10 of the event, and all five scores that counted placed in the top 30.
“It is a dream come true for me to win this championship like we did,” head coach Patrick Shane said after the event in 2001. “Before the race we knew we had a good chance, but you can never expect everyone to run as well as the girls did today. You have to savor the moment because this might never happen again.”
Of interest: The team’s third title in 2001 is the most for any BYU program, moving ahead of the men’s volleyball team for that distinction.
1. 1984 football
LaVell Edwards led the 1984 BYU Cougar football team to a perfect 13-0 record. The Cougars were crowned National Champions by the Associated Press, the United Press International, Sports Illustrated, CNN-USA Today and the Football Writers of America. Following their Cinderella season, Edwards was named the NCAA National Coach of the Year, and the team was invited to visit President Ronald Reagan in the White House.
The Cougars began the 1984 season unranked and sprinted up the rankings. BYU found itself as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation on Nov. 17, as a result of No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 ranked South Carolina both being upset on the same weekend.
The Cougars played Michigan in its final game of the season in the Holliday Bowl. Star Quarterback Robbie Bosco left the game with an injury, but the Cougars prevailed 24-17. Some, including NBC announcer Bryant Gumbel and Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer, scrutinized this national-championship team for playing a “Bo-Diddley Tech” schedule.
Of interest: NFL teams drafted 15 players from the 1984 team. Seven different teams held the No. 1 spot in 1984.