Winning: A BYU Tradition
BYU has one of the nation’s richest basketball traditions. In fact, 91 of the Cougars’ 118 seasons on the hardwood have been winning campaigns. Since putting its first team on the floor in 1903, BYU has amassed a 1806-1101* record to rank top-25 all-time among NCAA Division I programs in total victories. The Cougars also boast a winning percentage of 62.1, ranking top-50.
But it’s not just the sum of victories that make BYU one of the nation’s top hoop programs. Along the way, BYU has claimed 29 regular season conference championships and received 41* postseason invites, including 29 NCAA Tournament appearances. The Cougars won two NIT titles in 1951 (a national championship as the NIT was considered a premier tournament at the time) and 1966. BYU players also boast 135 all-conference and 82 All-America citations along with 45 NBA draft selections.
BYU has won conference championships in four different leagues. The first six came from the Rocky Mountain Conference and continued as BYU won five as a member of the Skyline Conference. During the Cougars’ membership in the Western Athletic Conference, BYU won 12 conference championships. In 12 seasons in the Mountain West Conference, BYU captured six league titles.
BYU’s basketball legacy is filled with many unique achievements. In 1981, the Cougars advanced to the Elite Eight when All-American Danny Ainge made what is still considered one of the NCAA tournament’s most amazing plays. Trailing Notre Dame 50-49 with eight seconds remaining, Ainge took the ball coast-to-coast, dribbling through all five Irish defenders, before lofting the game-winning finger roll just over the reach of Orlando Woolridge. Ainge received the Wooden Award and Eastman Trophy in 1981 as the nation’s top player.
In 2011, All-American Jimmer Fredette led the Cougars to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1981. Fredette led the nation in scoring in 2010-11 with an average of 28.9 points per game and earned every major Player of the Year honor, including the Naismith, Wooden and Oscar Robertson awards. Simply known as "The Jimmer" throughout the country, Fredette gained national fame with prolific scoring outbursts, which included 15 30-point games, four 40-point games and one 52-point explosion versus New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference tournament.
Legendary coach Stan Watts, who guided BYU to its NIT titles and is the program's all-time leader in wins, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1986, while All-American center Kresimir Cosic became BYU’s second Hall member in 1996. Turning down the opportunity to play in the NBA, Cosic returned home to Yugoslavia to pursue his passion to better-develop basketball in Europe. He earned one gold and two silver medals while playing on four Olympic teams and was a longtime coach of the Yugoslavian National Team, mentoring many future NBA players. He ended his playing career as the all-time Croatian scoring leader.
Before Cosic’s arrival in Provo, the Cougars already held the distinction of being the first U.S. program to include an international player on its roster in Finland’s Timo Lampen in 1958-59. BYU also boasts two of the nation’s longest-standing rivalries, having first played Utah State in 1906 and Utah in 1909.
The first radio broadcast in the intermountain area took place on Feb. 17, 1940, when BYU hosted Utah State in the Old Ladies Gymnasium in Provo. BYU broke a ban on broadcasting college sports due to the clamor from fans that only 500 people could fit into the gym. Arch Madsen called the game on KOVO radio in Provo with station manager David Walker providing analysis. Home games have also been played in Springville, the old BY Academy and even on the University of Utah’s home court.
BYU created a new home on campus with the construction of the George Albert Smith Fieldhouse. The Smith Fieldhouse was home to the Cougars from 1951-1971, with 20 different all-conference players, including seven All-Americans, starring for BYU during that era. Many capacity crowds crammed inside the Fieldhouse to see Cougar basketball. With BYU’s winning tradition, the then 10,000-seat arena grew too small for the increasing interest. In 1971, the Marriott Center was built, giving BYU what is still to this day one of the most intimidating arenas in college basketball.
Since opening the 18,987-seat Marriott Center (originally 22,700), the Cougars have been among the nation’s annual attendance leaders with 19 top-5 rankings and three times finishing No. 1. BYU has not disappointed its faithful, winning more than 80 percent of its games in the Marriott Center, including a school record 53-game home victory streak that started in 2005 and ended in 2008.
In recent history, the highest ranking a Cougar team has received in the media polls was the 1987-88 team. At one point the team was 17-0 and climbed as high as No. 2 and No. 3 in the rankings. Had the victory streak not been snapped by a single-game cross-country trip to UAB in Birmingham, the Cougars could have easily found themselves in the No. 1 spot as the top-rated Arizona Wildcats had lost and left the door open for the Cougars to be the only undefeated team in college basketball. The 2010-11 team, led by Fredette and Jackson Emery, climbed to No. 3 in both polls on Feb. 28, 2011. The team finished that season ranked 10th and 13th in the respective polls.
Mark Pope was named head coach of the program on April 10, 2019. He guided the Cougars to 24 wins in 2019-20, a second-place finish in the West Coast conference, the program's first national ranking since 2011 and a win over No. 2 Gonzaga in the Marriott Center on senior night. The Cougars were ranked as high as No. 15 in the AP Top 25 and finished the season at No. 18 in the AP and No. 16 in the Coaches Poll. Three players – Yoeli Childs, TJ Haws and Jake Toolson, earned All-WCC First Team honors. BYU was projected to earn a single-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament before all NCAA Championships were canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Prior to Pope, Dave Rose took the helm in 2005-06 after spending eight years as an assistant under former head coach Steve Cleveland. Rose played an instrumental role in helping the Cougars restore their tradition under Cleveland with NCAA appearances in 2001, 2003 and 2004 and NIT invites in 2000 and 2002. During that time, BYU was also one of just 14 programs to have a player taken in both the 2003 and 2004 NBA Drafts as Travis Hansen was selected in the second round in 2003 and Rafael Araujo was the No. 8 overall pick in 2004. In his 12 years guiding the Cougars, Rose led BYU to its first streaks of six-straight NCAA Tournament bids (2007 to 2012), five-straight seasons with appearances in the national rankings and six-straight 25 win seasons. He has also led the Cougars to 13-straight postseason tournaments (NIT in 2006, 2013, 2016*, 2017* and 2018) and four-straight seasons with a postseason victory (2010 to 2013). Rose also guided BYU to four conference titles, including three-straight conference titles from 2007 to 2009, the first such streak since 1932 to 1934.
*NIT appearances in 2016 and 2017 and 47 wins in 2015-16 and 2016-17 were vacated by the NCAA Committee on Infractions
|1951 and 1966 NIT Champions|
|29 NCAA Tournament Appearances|
|29 Regular Season Conference Championships|
|Two National Players of the Year – Danny Ainge and Jimmer Fredette|
|Jimmer Fredette – 2010-11 NCAA scoring champ at 28.9 ppg|
|NCAA Academic Progress Rate recognition – 2006 to 2012|
|27 All-Americans and five Academic All-Americans|
|Six Conference Players of the Year since 2000|
|2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 Conference Champions|
|16 postseason invitations (NCAA or NIT) in last 20 years|
|53-game home winning streak from 2005 to 2008|
|247-38 (.867) home record in last 20 years|
|2010-11 final rankings of No. 10 (AP Poll), No. 13 (Coaches Poll)|
|2009-10 final rankings of No. 17 (AP Poll), No. 22 (Coaches Poll)|
|Back-to-back 30-win seasons – 30 in 2009-10 and 32 in 2010-11|
|Five-straight seasons ranked in the top 25 (2007 to 2011)|
|Six-straight NCAA tournament appearances (2007 to 2012)|
|15-game win streak in 2009-10, second longest in program history|
|Two 10-game win streaks in 2010-11, first time in program history|
|Ranked No. in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (2020)|
|Ranked No. 1 in the nation in free-throw percentage (2010)|
|Ranked No. 2 in the nation in assist/turnover ratio (2020)|
|Ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring offense (2010, 2015)|
|Ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring margin (2010)|
|Ranked No. 2 in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage (2010)|
|Ranked No. 2 in the nation in rebounds per game (2017)|
|Ranked No. 3 in the nation in field-goal percentage (2020)|
|Ranked No. 3 in the nation in scoring offense (2014)|
|Ranked No. 4 in the nation in 3-point field goals per game (2020)|
|Ranked No. 4 in the nation in assists (2015)|
|Ranked No. 5 in the nation in assists per game (2020)|
|Ranked No. 5 in the nation in winning percentage (2011)|
|Ranked No. 5 in the nation in scoring margin (2011)|
|Ranked No. 6 in the nation in assists (2012)|
|Ranked No. 7 in the nation in scoring offense (2011)|
|Ranked No. 9 in the nation in scoring offense (2016)|
|Ranked No. 10 in the nation in free-throw percentage (2011)|