When they look back, what will BYU sports fans remember about the 2010s?
There were certainly plenty of highs and lows, great moments and superlative individual accomplishments.
It was a time of new directions and big questions -- many of which will definitely impact the 2020s.
While the future is definitely uncertain, this is a time to pause and look back.
Here is a look at the Top 10 BYU sports stories from the 2010s:
1. BYU football goes independent, other sports join West Coast Conference
Nothing shaped the 2010s for Cougar athletics like the decision announced on Sept. 1, 2010, that BYU would leave the Mountain West Conference to become independent in football and have most of its other programs join the smaller West Coast Conference.
In many ways it wasn’t surprising, since the Cougars had to do something with long-time top MWC rivals Utah and TCU joining big conferences. Since BYU football had deals with ESPN and fellow independent Notre Dame, there was immediate legitimacy.
It hasn’t been an easy ride, with the gridiron Cougars annually facing a front-loaded schedule while the BYU hoopsters have had to contend with the rise of Gonzaga as one of the best programs in the country. For Cougar football fans around the country, however, the move has allowed thousands to see BYU in action at venues close to home.
2. Hall-of-Fame coach LaVell Edwards dies
It’s impossible to overstate the impact of LaVell Edwards on the BYU football program and, by extension, the entire Cougar community. The affable coach took over a BYU squad that was fairly mediocre for most of its history and took a chance on changing its offense to focus on passing.
The Cougars changed the landscape of college football under Edwards’ direction, including winning the national championship in 1984 and having numerous individual award winners -- most notably Ty Detmer’s Heisman Trophy win in 1990.
Even though he retired after the 2000 season, Edwards remained active in the community and was a mentor to other BYU coaches, including Kalani Sitake. His death on Dec. 29, 2016, left a huge void for Cougar fans everywhere.
BYU also lost other notable figures during the decade, including long-time volleyball coach Carl McGown, long-time golf coach Karl Tucker, former Cougar broadcaster Paul James and former BYU men’s basketball coach LaDell Andersen.
3. Long-time Cougar coaches leave both football and men’s basketball
When the decade began, BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall was starting his sixth season in Provo while Cougar head men’s basketball coach Dave Rose was in the middle of his fifth year and on the cusp of the biggest seasons in decades for the program.
Now 10 years later, both Mendenhall and Rose are no longer in Provo.
Mendenhall announced in 2015 that he was leaving BYU to take the head coaching job at Virginia and ended up taking many of his assistant coaches with him. The Cougars turned to a former BYU player in Kalani Sitake to take over as head coach starting in 2016.
Rose stayed with the program through ups and downs -- including a battle with cancer -- until announcing his retirement in 2019. He was replaced by former Cougar assistant coach Mark Pope, who is in his first season at the helm.
4. Jimmer Fredette takes country by storm with basketball exploits
The 2010-11 men’s basketball season was unlike anything that had ever been seen in Provo before as superstar Jimmer Fredette and his talented teammates took the Cougars to heights they hadn’t seen in decades.
Fredette wowed fans and basketball experts alike with his dazzling array of shots, including his willingness to launch from 25 or 30 feet from the basket. He poured in 28.9 points per game and was named 2011 National Player of the Year. After he scored 43 points in an upset of undefeated San Diego State, NBA superstar Kevin Durant tweeted: “Jimmer Fredette is the best scorer in the world!!”
BYU was ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation but the suspension of forward Brandon Davies due to Honor Code violations took a toll on the Cougars in the postseason. Fredette led BYU to a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA tournament but there the Cougars lost to Florida in overtime.
5. Women’s volleyball makes runs to title game and Final Four
Few teams in BYU history have been able to compile the success the Cougar women’s volleyball team had during the 2010s.
Starting in 2012, BYU reached the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament in seven consecutive seasons (and just missed making it eight in a row when the Cougars lost in the NCAA second round in 2019).
There were two years that really stood out for the squad, with the first coming in 2014 when the unseeded Cougars made it to the national title game before losing to Penn State. BYU also had a phenomenal season in 2018 as the Cougars were ranked No. 1 for 12 weeks and reached the Final Four before falling to Stanford (the eventual national champ).
6. Hail Mary-mania in 2015 at Nebraska and vs. Boise State
As far as pure excitement goes, the first two games of the 2015 BYU football season are nearly impossible to top.
The Cougars started out playing at Nebraska in the 90,000-seat Memorial Stadium and appeared to be in trouble when starting quarterback Taysom Hill suffered a season-ending lisfranc injury. BYU freshman Tanner Mangum came in but the Cougars still trailed by a point with just one second one the clock, 42 yards from the end zone. Mangum took the snap and rolled right, given plenty of time by the Cougar offensive line. He heaved up a prayer, a Hail Mary throw the arched through the sky -- and settled in the arms of senior wide receiver Mitch Mathews right at the goal line for the game-winning touchdown.
The very next week, BYU faced a similar make-or-break moment in the final minute of the home-opener against Boise State, The Cougars faced fourth-and-7 from the Bronco 35-yard line when Mangum got flushed from the pocket and rolled to his right. He spotted Mitchell Juergens breaking deep and lofted a pass just before getting hit. Juergens went up between a couple of Bronco defenders and pulled in the TD pass to put BYU in front.
The “Mangum Magic” moments were ones no Cougar fan that saw them will ever forget.
7. Cougar athletes set all-time marks in a variety of sports
The last decade featured some truly special players that made their mark in Provo during their time at BYU, setting records that might last a long time. Here are a few examples of the all-time leaders who set those marks in the last 10 years:
- Jamaal Williams (2012-16): Football career rushing leader with 3,901 yards
- Cody Hoffman (2010-13): Football career receiving leader with 3,612 yards
- Tyler Haws (2009-10, 12-15): Men’s basketball’s career scoring leader with 2,720 points
- Ciera Parker (2012-15): Women’s volleyball career digs leader with 1,793
- Kyle Collinsworth (2010-11, 13-16): Men’s basketball’s career rebounding (1,047) and assists (703) leader
8. Rivalry ups and downs
One of the biggest sore spots for BYU fans is the fact that the Cougar football team failed to defeat rival Utah during the 2010s, losing all nine matchups with seven of them decided by eight points or fewer.
In other sports, the competition was much closer. The BYU basketball team started out with five straight wins over the Utes, then lost three in a row. The Cougars ended up 7-4 against Utah during the 2010s.
BYU also went 9-4 against the Utes in women’s volleyball, 7-2-1 vs. Utah in women’s soccer and 9-5 vs. the Utes in women’s basketball.
9. BYU runners establish high standard, including 2019 men’s cross country national championship
The only national championship won by any Cougar team during the last decade came in November of 2019 as the BYU men’s cross country squad put up great numbers on a snowy track in Terre Haute, Indiana, to win the 2019 NCAA title.
While that was a tremendous accomplishment, the Cougar men’s team had put up five Top 6 finishes during the 2010s so it was no stranger to elite-level competition.
The BYU women’s team finished just short of getting a title of its own in 2019, taking a huge step forward with its second-place result.
The Cougars also had outstanding individual track and field successes, including Clayton Young being the 2019 10K outdoor champion, Miles Batty winning the indoor mile and the distance medley relay in 2011, Leif Arrhenius winning the shot put in 2011, Nachelle Mackie winning the indoor and outdoor 800-meter titles in 2012 and Lacey Cramer Bleazard winning the 800-meter indoor crown in 2011.
10. Men’s volleyball reaches national title game in 2013, 2016 and 2017
With all the volleyball talent that has been in Provo during the last 10 years, it;s slightly surprising that the Cougar men’s team hasn’t quite been able to get over the top and win another national championship.
BYU had three opportunities as the Cougars reached the title games in 2013, 2016 and 2017.
In the first championship, BYU face a Cal-Irvine squad it had beaten twice during the regular season -- only to see the Anteaters come away with the 3-0 win.
In 2016 and 2017, BYU faced talented Ohio State teams in both of the finals (with both games taking place back east). And both times the Buckeyes proved to be better, sweeping the Cougars in straight sets.
Women’s soccer reaches Elite 8 twice, women’s basketball makes it to Sweet 16 in 2014, softball wins 10 straight league titles, men’s golf’s Peter Kuest ranked No. 1 individual in fall of 2019, gymnastics growth results in NCAA experiences, club sports like rugby and men’s soccer have successes but also see roles change.