The BYU Cougars have proved their strength on the national level, winning a total of 10 national championships in NCAA competition.
The most recent championships titles were claimed by the men's volleyball in 2004 and women's cross country in 2002. The men's volleyball team also won in 2001 and 1999, and the women's cross country team won three previous championships, in 2001, 1999 and 1997. Before those, there was the 1984 football title, the 1981 men's golf championship team, and the 1970 men's track and field championship.
Following are summaries of each team's championship seasons.
After posting a perfect 13-0 record, the Cougars were awarded gold national championship rings for winning the 1984 National Championship.
The Cougars were named No. 1 by the Associated Press, the United Press International, Sports Illustrated, CNN-USA Today, and the Football Writers of America. They won the Grantland Rice Trophy and the MacArthur Bowl. LaVell Edwards was selected as the NCAA National Coach of the Year and was invited to visit President Ronald Reagan in the White House.
The dream season featured plays like wide receiver Adam Haysbert's deep touchdown catch at third-ranked Pittsburgh, safety Kyle Morrell's timed leap over the center on a goal-line stand at Hawaii, tight end David Mill's catch with a clouded eye against Wyoming and running back Kelly Smith's winning TD catch against Michigan, who had been ranked second earlier in the season.
With a TV blimp in the sky over San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium, junior quarterback Robbie Bosco left the Holiday Bowl in the second quarter with an ankle injury and returned late in the second quarter. The 24-17 victory over Michigan was the first time a No. 1 team played in a non-New Year's Day bowl.
The Cougars ascended to the number one spot on Nov. 17 following a 24-14 victory at Utah combined with a Nebraska loss to Oklahoma and a Navy upset over unbeaten and then second-ranked South Carolina.
The Cougars rose from being unranked at the beginning of the season to their eventual number one ranking. Baylor Coach Grant Teaff, whose team lost at BYU 47-13, was the first to cast a No. 1 vote for the Cougars.
Controversy was abundant as many of the so-called experts, such as NBC announcer Bryant Gumbel and Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer, accused BYU of playing a "Bo-Diddley Tech" schedule.
Fifteen players from the 1984 team were drafted by NFL teams. Seven different teams held the No. 1 spot in 1984, but in the end it belonged to undefeated BYU.
The Cougar men's volleyball team has won three national championships in 1999, 2001 and 2004.
The 1999 season was one for the highlight reel for the BYU men's volleyball team. They won a record 30 matches. In 20 of those matches, they blanked their opponents in three straight games. They even shut out storied champion UCLA, 15-0, in one game. BYU won its first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title and advanced to the Final Four for the first time.
It took coach Carl McGown only ten years to assemble one of the greatest collegiate volleyball teams ever. BYU's stellar defense was a big reason why the Cougars came home with a National Championship in 1999. Behind the blocking of Mac Wilson and Ryan Millar, the Cougars averaged nearly nine blocks per game.
The Cougars had two first-team All-Americans in Ryan Millar and Ossie Antonetti, and one second-team All-American with setter Hector Lebron. They also set an NCAA men's volleyball attendance record, with 14,156 fans packing the Marriott Center on February 19 against Hawaii.
In 2001, the Cougars outblocked UCLA 14.5 to 3.0, led by senior Mac Wilson, who posted a match-high seven blocks. Fellow senior Scott Bunker added six blocks, limiting the Bruins to a .310 average at the net.
"BYU is the best team in the nation," UCLA legendary head coach Al Scates said. "Scott Bunker is the best blocker in the nation. He is better than anyone on the national team right now. He is ready to play internationally right now. Simply, with Bunker and guys like Joaquin Acosta, this is the best team BYU has ever had."
A total of seven weeks at No. 1, 23 victories, an MPSF regular-season championship and four All-Americans later, the dream finally became a reality on May 5, 2001 at the Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif. The second-ranked Cougars knocked off 18-time National Champion and top-ranked UCLA to claim their second NCAA National Championship in the past three seasons.
The Cougars outdueled the Bruins for the second time of the season, this time in just three games. The Cougars' 3-0 win against UCLA also marked the 15th three-game sweep for the men in the 2001 season.
"Before the season started, I said I thought this team could win a National Championship," BYU head coach Carl McGown said. "It has been a long season and we've done some great things, but this is the greatest. I can't tell you how proud I am of these guysâ€¦It was great to win the championship in 1999 when we should have won it, but it's an even better feeling to win it when the odds weren't so much in our favor, and to win it against the best of the best-it's such a great feeling."
Numerous come-from-behind victories, a 21-match winning streak, four All-Americans and he first AVCA National Player of the Year in Cougar men's volleyball history were just some of the highlights of an amazing championship season. BYU defeated Long Beach State in the most intense championship matches in BYU men's volleyball history May 8, 2004, at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu. The Cougars defeated their rivals, the 49ers, for the fourth time of the 2004 season in five games.
The 1981 men's golf team was the first BYU team in any sport to win an outright NCAA Championship. The Cougars won the championship in 1981 after finishing second in 1980.
BYU had finished in the top 5 in the NCAA Championships for eight straight years.
BYU started the fall season by winning the first tournament of the year; at season's end, the Cougars defended their WAC Championship by 22 strokes. That would set up their run at the NCAA title in Stanford, Calif.
Going into the 15th hole of the last round at the championship, BYU held a one-stroke lead over Oral Roberts. Going into the final hole, the Cougars had a three-shot advantage with only Dick Zokol left to finish. He secured the championship by shooting a 5, and BYU won by two shots.
Zokol was the low BYU scorer in the tournament, including a second-round score of 66. He finished 8th overall in the tournament. Keith Clearwater finished 10th, and freshman Rick Fehr finished 15th. Zokol, Clearwater and Barry Willardson were All-Americans. Clearwater, Fehr and Zokol currently play on the PGA Tour.
The Cougars did not have an individual medalist all season. In the end, it was the team effort that propelled BYU to the national championship.
Women's Cross Country
The women's cross country team has won four titles, more than any other team at BYU. They won in 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2002.
Experts had picked defending champion Stanford to easily repeat as cross country champions in 1997. The media, coaches and publications all agreed Stanford was the best team. The Cardinal hadn't lost a meet in over a year.
Defying the odds, the BYU women beat Stanford 100-102, bringing home the first NCAA Championship ever won by a BYU women's team.
All-American Courtney Pugmire finished first for the Cougars, passing two competitors in the last 150 meters to place fifth in the team competition, and eighth overall.
In cross country, seven runners compete for each team, with the finish of the top five runners counting toward the team score. The places taken by the five scored runners are added together and the team with the lowest combined score wins.
"I was counting places as the girls came by me," head coach Patrick Shane recalls. "And I was telling the girls that if they all held their places we'd win the national championship."
Then, in the last 100 meters of the race BYU's fifth runner, sophomore Caisa Monahan, was inadvertently tripped by another runner. With the team title on the line, the Cougars' Emily Nay came through, sprinting past Monahan to cement BYU's team score at 100 and give the Cougars the victory.
Pugmire was named WAC Runner of the Year for the second time. After the championship, Provo mayor Lewis Billings declared January 27, 1998 BYU Women's Cross Country Team Recognition Day in the city.
For the second time in three years, the BYU women's cross country team ran away with the national title. Just one year after being edged by Villanova, the Cougars placed three runners in the top twenty to score an impressive 53-point victory.
With the win, BYU solidified its position as one of the premiere women's cross country programs in the nation. A year before, the BYU women won every race they ran in except the national championship. In 1999, head coach Patrick Shane orchestrated a system of running and resting that produced a team that peaked at just the right time.
Shane received the first-ever Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year award, and senior Elizabeth Jackson was named MWC Athlete of the Year. Sarah Ellett took Freshman of the Year honors. Jackson, Laura Heiner, Sharolyn Shields, Tara Rohatinksy and Kara Ormond were All-Americans.
In 2001, the BYU women's cross country team simply dominated the field on the way to their third national title in the past five years. The Cougars scored only 62 points to defeat runner-up N.C. State by 86 points, one of the largest margins of victory in NCAA history.
The win was a team effort for BYU, with three runners finishing in the top 10 and all five scoring runners finishing in the top 30.
"It is a dream come true for me to win this championship like we did," head coach Patrick Shane said. "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."
The team's third title is the most for any BYU program, moving ahead of the men's volleyball team for that distinction.
Just like its team cheer says, the BYU women's cross country team ran "as fast as Cougars" to win the 2002 NCAA 6K Cross Country Championships hosted by Indiana State University. BYU successfully defended its 2001 NCAA Title with a total of 85 points.
Men's Track & Field
In 1970, the men's track and field team claimed a share of the national title. The Cougars earned the first-ever national championship for the BYU athletic program by winning the Track and Field Federation championship in Lexington, Ky.
The Cougars were led by stars such as intermediate hurdler Ralph Mann and high jumpers Chris Celion and Ken Landmark.