For Whom LaVell Tolls

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Last week the world was stunned when the legendary LaVell Edwards announced that, after 29 years of coaching BYU football, he was going to do what no one thought he would ever do: give Merrill Bateman a wedgie.

Also, he announced he will retire after this season. This makes him the first person ever to leave the BYU football team for anything other than Honor Code violations.

Among LaVell’s major accomplishments: 251 wins, a national championship, forcing Steve Young to get married, producing a Heisman Trophy-winner, third most-winning active coach, seventh all-time most-winning coach, 22 bowl games, first Native American on the moon, development of the polio vaccine, and author of three of the Harry Potter books.

In football terminology, he “went long,” but now he’s in the “end zone,” finished with flying high and ready to “touch down” into a life of retirement. Maybe he’ll do a little “yard” work, or take the “tackle” box and go fishing. Or maybe he’ll just hit the “sack.” He was a “receiver” of many accolades, but now he will “pass” the torch on to someone else and take a “hike.” If he left a “safety” deposit on his coaching whistle, I hope he gets his “quarter back.” Someone please kill me.

It is true that I have little interest in football. But it is NOT true, as has been rumored in the past, that in all my years at BYU I only attended one game. In fact, I attended only half of one game, and then I left because I was bored and cold. I had gone in the first place only because my roommate dragged me because his girlfriend was a Cougarette and he wanted to watch her shake her potatoes in the context of a university-sanctioned activity. (By the way, if you are spell-checking a document containing the word “Cougarette,” the computer will suggest “cigarette” in its place.)

But despite my low interest in football, I can still recognize LaVell Edwards for what he is: a classy guy with enormous jowls. Who else do you know with jowls? Nixon, right? And he was a foul-mouthed, dog-kicking presidency-quitter. In the category of Guys with Jowls, LaVell beats the pants off Nixon, at least metaphorically speaking, and perhaps literally, too.

Once LaVell and I were in the same audience for Provo Theatre Company’s “Forever Plaid,” one of 783 productions of “Forever Plaid” in Utah that year. I didn’t notice him until the woman next to me nudged me violently with her elbow and said, “LaVell Edwards is here!” I looked down the row, and sure enough, there was LaVell, sitting with his wife. I had always assumed he was just one of those “football guys” who only care about football and nothing else. And here he was, at the theater, enjoying the show. Smiling, even.

If BYU has any decency — and I’m not saying it does — it will rename Cougar Stadium after LaVell. LaVell Stadium. Not LaVell Edwards Stadium, because everyone just calls him LaVell. Franklin S. Harris gets the Fine Arts Center named after him, and no one even knows who he is. LaVell is a household name, and he did more for cramming that stadium full of shrieking U of U-haters than anyone else ever did. I pledge not to set foot in Cougar Stadium until it has been renamed in honor of LaVell. Yes, the odds are good I’m not likely to set foot in the stadium very often anyway, but the fact remains: LaVell deserves that honor. And lots of people deserve that wedgie.

Despite my whole-hearted disinterest in football, I've always admired LaVell Edwards. Everything I know about him suggests he's a classy, respectable, talented man, and I can appreciate that even in fields I don't care about. I don't know why I felt compelled to write a column about him, other than that all the other columnists in Utah were doing it. Turned out OK, I guess.

And BYU did name the stadium after him, though I still haven't had occasion to set foot in the stadium since then.

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