Saw this tonight and wonder what everyone thinks. Lavelle coached in the WAC in a different era. Is it even possible to compare the two coaches?
They aren’t comparable.
Lavell did his in what was a pretty weak G5 conference for most of his career. It wasn’t until the MWC transition that the competition level began to pick up. Granted, when Lavell took over in Provo, that program was a complete dumpster fire.
Whitt took a G5 program and built a Championship P5 program. I am sure Lavell is proud of what Kyle has been able to do.
They are/were both exceptional at their profession - a comparison is unnecessary, in my opinion.
It’s fair to say that they both built something remarkable out of something much smaller. To be fair, Whit had more to begin with. (But he was part of building the Utah program almost from the beginning, joining McBride in 1994 when things were really turning around.)
LaVell only coached two seasons in the MWC, 1999 (the inaugural year) and 2000 (his final season). In 1999, BYU was 9-4 and lost their final three games convincingly. In 2000, BYU was 6-6 and had to pull out a miracle with bad officiating to beat Utah to avoid a losing record.
I respect LaVell for his accomplishments and offensive innovations. But the guy largely beat up on bad WAC teams. His bowl record was 7-14-1.
It’s okay for Whitt to be compared with Lavell, as both are great coaches. However, what sets Coach Whittingham apart is the higher level of competition his teams face.
I’m not so sure about that. I read somewhere that during BYU’s glory years, the 80’s, they were outspending WAC teams by 2-3 times. Once Utah started to spend money on football and TCU was added and SDSU started to care, BYU slipped to the spenders really quick.
LaVell was very, very, very good. BUT, you put Whitt in the WAC with BYU’s resources…and they go undefeated more than once. BYU’s inability to go undefeated with how many advantages they had over everyone else is not a thing to be proud of.
Even 1984…Pitt was 3-7. Baylor was 5-6. Tulsa was 6-5. Hawaii was 7-4. Colorado St was 3-8. Wyoming was 6-6. Air Force was 8-4. New Mexico was 4-8. UTEP was 2-9. SDSU was 4-7-1. Utah was 6-5-1. Utah State was 1-10.
They played not one good team. Oh, wait, what about Michigan? 6-6. And BYU had six turnovers and was losing in the fourth…to a team that was average with their third string QB.
There was nothing special about that year other than BYU didn’t lose (which looks great on the surface). BUT, like the argument against every G5 team, how many teams in 1984 could have gone undefeated with that schedule? 10? Probably. 20? Maybe.
So, what did BYU prove? Not much. They could win against bad teams. GREAT. Any above average team can do that.
And BYU’s team has multiple NFL guys on it. They should have rolled through that season.
You compare that season to 2004 or 2008 and there is no comparison. Utah did impressive stuff. BYU…they beat average to bad teams. Big whoop.
So, how good was LaVell? Who knows. Maybe great. Maybe average. But we really don’t know because he never put himself in a position to compete. He would rather punch down than up, and while that served him really well, it doesn’t allow us to really know where to rank him.
Give me Whitt any day of the week. Or Ronnie Mac. They actually had to compete.
One thing about Lavell is he’s often credited for running an innovative offense — an offense that changed the nature of college football. I don’t think many, if any, we’re chucking the ball around like him.
I mean…what Alex Smith and Urban came up with in practice has changed the nature of college football and the NFL.
But, to be fair, that ain’t Whitt. He’s tried to run what Urban did but has never been able to figure that out. His shocking achilles heel. The throw game.
What interested me about Doug Robinson’s article was that he thought the subject was worth writing a newspaper article about. I would never have thought of that comparison until I saw the article. It just never occurred to me.
That was the key to his success. His passing offense allowed him to use relatively slow athletes to dominate WAC-level teams, and to please his fan base by running up scores. (His system certainly worked against the Utes during those late 1970s and 1980s seasons.) In bowls against teams with speed and athleticism he was 7-14. But he deserves credit for coming up with a way to win with what he had.
LaVell had huge advantages over his competitors for more than half his career.
The New Mexicos, Wyomings & Utahs of the WAC did not have the same number of scholarships that byu had, plus byu’s budget was much larger. LaVell was no longer as dominating once the other schools in his conference slowly caught up.
LaVell had four or five years of really good teams, from about 79 to 84, other than those years they were good but not great.
This is my thinking as well. How good was LaVell? Well, he had so many advantages and when you look at those advantages, did he really do that good? I’m not so sure he did. He probably should have recruited a whole lot better and instead of putting starters in late in game to set records in blowout games, prepped and played in more big games.
In 1985: losses to UCLA, UTEP and Ohio St.
1983: Loss to Baylor. Beat UCLA.
1989: losses to Washington St, Penn St and Hawaii
1990: losses to Oregon, Texas A&M and Hawaii
1994: losses to Colorado St, Arizona St and Utah.
With the teams and the talent BYU has had, I don’t think great coaches lose so many games in “great” seasons like BYU did under LaVell.
I’ll add to my earlier thoughts that I think what Whit did when the Utes joined the PAC was far superior to how LaVell built byu. Utah competed right away, dealing with a huge jump in competition from the MWC to the PAC. LaVell just had the crappy old WAC to compete against.
Kind of off topic but McBride was one of the nicer coaches I have met. I was leaving UK Network as he was coming in to Coach LBs with Head Coach Rich Brooks of Oregon. That was a fun and very seasoned staff. They helped put UK on the trajectory they are on now. The staffs before had success but also bent way too many rules. Those old dogs did it the right way.
Back in the late 90’s early 2000’s, McBride used to go up to the JCC to swim around lunchtime a few days a week. I was working at home a few days a week and and going up to workout in the weight room, and often ran into him there.
He was ALWAYS friendly, happy to chat and answer questions about the team. He helped me and a group of buddies that I was traveling with to the Michigan game in 2002, to get great seats.
If you ever see him on the street and walk up with Ute gear on and call him coach, he’ll stop, smile that big smile of his, and chat as long as you like.
One of a kind!
This has been my experience with Ronnie Mac as well. Every time I’ve talked to him he’s treated me as if he already knew me and really took the time to talk to me and answer my questions.
I don’t care for these comparison posts. . . It’s like comparing LeBron and Michael. Just completely unnecessary posts comparing coaches that were put in completely different situations.
While I think Michael Jordan is the GOAT. . . I really couldn’t care less that my best friend in highschool thinks LeBron is the GOAT.
Lavell’s longevity and the big-name coaches and players who worked with him are significant. It’s still comparing a barrel of apples to a barrel of oranges though.
My experience as well took my 8 month old son to a football practice. Game was in his eyes and was crying he sent Vicky to buy him a Ute hat so I could stay and watch.
She brought one back for a baby.