Ralph R. Zobell | Posted: 9 Jan 2015 | Updated: 8 Nov 2020

10th anniversary of 1984 national championship

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Reprinted from the Oct. 29, 1994 Cougar Illustrated


Must visits for the 1994 college football season? To the state of Colorado to learn about the Rams of CSU and the Buffaloes of CU, to see Steve "Air" McNair at Alcorn State and to either Penn State or Nebraska.

Ten years ago, the "must visit" top-three circuit was for reporters to visit Boston College for a Doug Flutie Heisman column, to Mississippi Valley State for an article on the treps formation featuring wide receiver Jerry Rice and to BYU, yes, Provo, for a story on the Cougars going undefeated with a shot at the national title.

Up until the final weeks of the season, no one could predict BYU should win the national title with a 13-0 record, but it had the earmarks of undefeated season developing.

The lore was building for plays like Adam Haysbert's deep touchdown catch at third-ranked Pittsburgh, for Kyle Morrell's timed leap over the center on goal line at Hawai`i, for David Mills' catching a pass with a clouded eye against Wyoming in Provo and for Kelly Smith's winning TD catch against Michigan. Yet there are hundreds of hidden plays that contributed to the success of 1984.

"I can remember Slugo's (Mills) face being bloody," says Robbie Bosco. "Kozlowski (Glen) had a concussion against Wyoming. We had a fourth and 10 and called a Z option. I had to wave him out farther because he didn't know what was going on."

And there was turbulence off the field in 1984 ranging from Bryant Gumbel's NBC Bo-Diddley Tech slam to Michigan's Bo Schembechler's scoffing.

Four days before Christmas in 1984, Bo was slurping coffee that sloshed out of its porcelain cup as he ambled up to the podium at the Wolverine's team headquarters in San Diego. The post-day Holiday Bowl press conference in San Diego had been orchestrated in advance by hopeful Michigan, which now wanted no part of the rehashing. Rather, it served as a chance to solidify the Cougar claim to number one.

LaVell Edwards was the only coach in sight when the press conference started. He gave his remarks and then left as Bo was coaxed into the room. Bo was seething when told by Denver writer Dick Connor that LaVell insinuated the Wolverines were holding the night before.

"He said that?"said a startled Schembechler, who went berserk and then accused BYU of being the worst holding team in America. "They hold on every play."

Against Michigan, BYU quarterback Robbie Bosco was at his finest when it appeared he was headed for the worst. Michigan tackle Mike Hammerstein injured Bosco's ankle with a vicious second-quarterback in the Holiday Bowl and Robbie was taken to the locker room.

"I asked, `Will any more damage happen? Will my career be over if I go out and play?'" said Bosco reflecting on events of 10 years ago in San Diego. "They told me no, so they taped it up and it still hurt. I could only move my knee laterally."

That Holiday Bowl victory propelled BYU to the 1984 national championship. Michigan's 6-5 record, the fact that it was the Holiday Bowl featuring a team from the lowly Western Athletic Conference, and a continual defense of who have "they" (BYU) played, detracted from the Cougars' chances of winning a national title.

Kicker Lee Johnson recalls his most vital kick of 1984 may have come against Michigan.

"Late in the second quarter we were stopped on the 14 and I knew my field goal was clutch. I had to make it," says Johnson. "I realized what was at stake, but I felt very confident it had to be made. When it went through I remember Hammerstein saying something, but you can't print it."

Michigan had been a last choice of the Holiday Bowl to go against number one BYU. On selection Sunday, Holiday Bowl redcoat personnel started meeting at 10 a.m., and put teams like auburn and Tennessee on hold, thinking they could get a more worthy opponent to play the nation's number one team.

"We didn't think money would be as much of a factor and got a rude awakening," recalls Holiday Bowl Executive Director John Reid. "We held off some really good teams and they got panicky before we made our decision at 10 p.m. From a marque and tradition standpoint, Michigan was a great opponent."

Gold, square national championship rings now adorn the finger of each Cougar on the 1984 team as a result of the 24-17 victory over Michigan.

A New Jersey attorney annually writes letters seeing if anyone will sell him their championship ring. That ring was the first of 10 BYU championship rings earned by Bosco. LaVell has rarely worn his ring and neither has center Trevor Matich, one of eight All-WAC Cougars on that team.

"My ring doesn't fit because I have too many gnarled knuckles," says Matich, who has extended his NFL pro career through the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts and now the Washington Redskins.

Matich says bedlam broke out on the bus when the Cougars were returning from the Utah game in Salt Lake City.

"We were listening to the radio to the Nebraska-Oklahoma game and when the game clock ended the bus erupted," says Matich.

That Nebraska loss knocked them out of the number one spot for the second time in 1984. That same afternoon, Navy upset second-ranked South Carolina, the last remaining unbeaten division one team other than BYU.

"Garrick (Craig), Herm (Jim Herrmann) and I had talked about going undefeated before Pitt, then we put it out of our minds because it was too early," says Johnson. "Pitt carried us the whole season."

"One day in practice Koz tried to get everybody against me, so I decided all week long I wouldn't throw him the ball," said Bosco.

Another time at Utah State, Garrick came in the huddle teary-eyed and squinting and said, "I can't see, I can't see."

"I took his helmet off and blew in his face," said Bosco. "He said, 'I can see, I can see.' The effort was incredible by everyone. I've never seen that kind of effort playing or coaching."

Once BYU was voted into the number one position it only had a cushion of five points, followed by eight and then 20 in the Associated Press poll, corresponding with 19, 24 and finally an 18-point  spread over number two Washington in the UPI Coaches' poll.

In the bowl scenario, pre-season number one Auburn won in the Liberty Bowl, the next number one Miami lost in the Fiesta Bowl, the next number one Nebraska won in the Sugar Bowl, the next number one Texas lost in the Freedom Bowl and the next number one Washington won in the Orange Bowl. The matchups in the major bowls were Southern Cal-Ohio State in the Rose, Oklahoma-Washington in the Orange, Nebraska-LSU in the Sugar, and Boston College-Houston in the Cotton.

Then years later names like Edwards (Jimmy), Doman (Kevin), Heimuli (Hema) and Young (Mike) are still with the program today through LaVell Edwards and brothers Bryce Doman, Hema Heimuli and Tom Young.

Ten years later, gone from the 1984 coaching scenario is Washington's Don James. Oklahoma's Barry Switzer is now resurrected with the Dallas Cowboys. Only one, Air Force Coach Fisher DeBerry, of the original coaches from all BYU's 13 opponents in 1984 has remained with his school. Now John Cooper has moved from Tulsa to Ohio State,dick Tomey moved from Hawai`i to Arizona, Utah's Chuck Stobart moved to Memphis State to survive a player mutiny, Colorado State's Leon Fuller went to Texas and is now with the Denver Broncos, Michigan's Schembechler had a stint with baseball's Detroit Tigers, San Diego State's Doug Scovil went on to the Philadelphia Eagles and USU's Chris Pella is now on the Cougar staff.

As for the players of `84, at least six have become lawyers: Korey Rassmussen, David Tuckett, Keith McCullough, Jimmy Edwards, Jordan Christianson and Herrmann; at least four others have graduated with master's degrees: Garrick, Andy Boyce, Scott Robinson and Cary Whittingham.

Fifteen players were drafted by the NFL: Robert Anae, Herrmann, Johnson, Louis Wong, Morrell, Matich, Leon White, Jeff Sprowls, Kozlowski, Vai Sikahema, Kurt Gouveia, Cary Whittingham, Bosco, Heimuli and Mark Bellini. Marv Allen is a physician, Haysbert is a part-time evangelist minister, and at least four are in coaching: Bosco at BY, Mills at Southern Utah, Kelly Smith at Dixie College and Wong at Alta High.

After the 1984 season, Bosco attended the Columbus Touchdown Club Banquet in Ohio honoring great athletic performances of the year, including New York Yankee Dave Winfield.

"He (Winfield) came up to me and said, 'You did a great job, you deserved everything,,'" said Bosco. A couple of months later after BYU beat Boston College in the Kickoff Classic, Bosco took Sikahema inside Yankee Stadium where they found Winfield who said, "Hey, you guys got off last night (vs. Boston College)."

Ten years later, players, fans and coaches are still having to defend the 1984 National championship. Other are like Lee Johnson.

"I quit defending it," says Johnson. "I'm a believer."

  AP UPI Final Rank
Preseason Auburn Auburn 14th, 9-4
Week One Miami Miami 18th, 8-5
Week Two Nebraska Nebraska 4th, 10-2
Week Three Nebraska Nebraska  
Week Four Nebraska Nebraska  
Week Five Texas Texas unranked, 7-4-1
Week Six Texas Texas  
Week Seven Washington Washington 2nd, 11-1
Week Eight Washington Washington  
Week Nine Washington Washington  
Week 10 Washington Washington  
Week 11 Nebraska Nebraska  
Week 12 BYU BYU 1st, 13-0
Week 13 BYU BYU  
Pre-Bowl BYU BYU  
Final BYU BYU  

For more information on the 1984 national championships, please visit the following links on our site:


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