Curtain Call for Coach Crowton

Gary Crowton bowed out as the head coach of BYU's football team at a press conference today. TBS reviews the afternoon's proceedings with a focus on Coach Crowton's comments to reporters, fans, coached and players.

In the Cougar Room at LaVell Edwards' Stadium, head BYU football coach Gary Crowton sat in front of the media lights one last time. The departing coach graciously answered questions from a Utah press corps that, through the recent Cougar football trials and tribulations, did not always extend him the same courtesy.

"I would just like to welcome you out here," coach Crowton said as he sat at the table. "I met with the administration and we talked about the football program and at this time I feel like it's time for me to step down and let the football program move into a different direction. One thing I can say is I enjoyed my time here."

Crowton continued the press conference by giving thanks for the opportunity to coach at the program he idolized since childhood. He also praised all those with whom he worked most closely, especially those who gave him the support and encouragement to keep battling forward during tough times.

"I want to thank, first of all, my coaching staff. I think we have an outstanding coaching staff. I love them to death," said Crowton. "When things were tough they just hung in there and battled and they didn't get on the phones and try to get new jobs. They were just committed to the kids and the program, and I just really appreciate them. Also the staff around them everybody from academics, E.J Caffaro, Jim Hamblin our video coordinator, Keith Curl, Kevin Morris our trainer, Nick Hill our equipment manager and all the students they had working with them. I appreciate the fans. I think we have great fans here."

In attendance were KSL's Bill Riley and Greg Wrubell. Also in attendance from Salt Lake City and local press-media were Frank Franchuk, Jeff Call, Darnell Dickson, television personalities, radio personality Gordon Monson and many others.

"I just want to thank all you guys who've covered the program," Crowton Continued. "I know some of you've been down on me and some of you have been excited about what we've done, but that's okay. That's part of the business and I recognize that. I've got a lot more dreams that I want to accomplish in my life.

"I want to thank my family. My family has always stood by, especially my wife. She's stood by me and been there for me, and she's a wonderful lady and I have great kids and they‘re strong and able to handle tough situations. At this time, I don't know if I've forgotten anybody but just all those that have helped me. I appreciate the secretaries too, but especially those coaches. You guys are tough and you're great guys and I just enjoyed working with you guys, thanks."

After expressing his gratitude, Crowton fielded a question about the state of the program.

"I think the program is on the rise and I can see with our 17 stars coming back and our 22 missionary guys coming off missions," said Crowton. "A lot of guys have played and have experience, and I feel like they are some real solid players. Recruiting has gone well the last couple of years and I think the future is very bright. Who ever the leader may be, I just wish them the best.

"To me, it's grown leaps and bounds and that's why we had a good graduation rate this year and our GPA is up 2.91. I think our weight room with Jay Omer has done a great job. It's tough, we're getting those guys who leave here they're getting ready for the NFL. Every NFL scout that I've talked to has said that the last few years when the guys have the opportunity they really meet the standards as far as the NFL in strength and conditioning. Jay [Omer] and Justin [McLure] do a great job in that area. We've reorganize recruiting. We kind of have a good understanding of missionaries and how it works. There's been no lapse in recruiting the last few years, so you'll see the benefits coming back. It's been a lot of hard work and a lot of people."

Crowton knew coming into BYU that filling the shoes of Lavell Edwards would be a tremendous task. A competitive coach by nature, Crowton felt he could take the reigns as BYU's new head coach and build upon the previous success.

Said Crowton: "When I took the job, following Lavell Edwards was the biggest challenge because he set the standards very high, and as the game's changed our league's changed. There's a lot of things that have changed through the years at BYU that a lot of people haven't seen. As the administration's growing the university is growing and it became a selective admissions where it used to not be earlier, and there's just a lot of things that have changed to that and that's what the administration is trying to do. We're trying to sort through all that give the student athlete the best opportunities to be successful. As I talked to the president (Cecil Samuelson), one of the things he said was he didn't want to put young men into a position where they wouldn't succeed and I respected that."

Looking back on his coaching experience at BYU, Crowton felt that while there were things he could have done differently, he always tried to do the right thing for his players, coaches and the program as a whole.

"Obviously there's always things you would change and you know, I've made mistakes down the road and I'm responsible for where we are at right now for win and losses," the coach acknowledged. "I'm the head football coach and that's why I'm here resigning right now at this time, so, you know, I tell you I'm accountable for what happened. There's things I would change but there are things I thought we did well. I can tell you this, I've always tried to do the right things, and I've made some tough decisions, and you gotta always be making decisions to move forward and I wasn't afraid to make decisions.

"I'm happy I got the chance to be here. It was a great opportunity for me, and, like I said, I'm accountable. I recognize wins are important. That first year when I got 12 I felt like I was standing on a hill looking down because we have all those guys leaving, but I felt like I was up for the challenge to built it back up, and I'm trying to do but it just isn't coming quite as fast as I had hoped. This year we were just about there with a couple of those close losses, to many turnovers, couple missed kicks. . .we are where we are."

After two losing seasons, many fans and media personnel felt, despite the tough out of conference schedule, a third straight losing season would constitute the final nails in the coffin of Coach Crowton's BYU coaching career. In the end the schedule proved to be too much for a developing Cougar squad.

Said Crowton: "The schedule was too tough for our team this year. It's not too tough for BYU. Our team wasn't ready for that tough schedule the last two years because we went through some growing stages, but I love playing out those games against Notre Dame and Southern Cal, those are fun games. Boise, we just let that one right there at the last second and they're an undefeated team. We got the Notre Dame win and that was a great win for our program. The first time we've beaten Colorado State since 1997 at home. We beat Air Force, first time we beat Air Force on the road since 1994, so there was a lot of good things on the schedule.

"The schedule is what it was, and the challenge was something I looked forward to, but our team wasn't quite ready for that schedule. I think it's getting closer and closer. Next year's schedule is a lot better. We play the Big East champion Boston College. You have Notre Dame later in the year and hopefully a I-AA team in there, so it's going to be a different type schedule and the team will be ready with all those stars coming back."

Despite the knowledge that his job was on the line, Crowton pushed his coaching staff and a young team through honor code distractions and did his best to keep the team focused.

"Well, the thing that I've always tried to do and that I've talked to my coaches about and the players about is just die hard, so to speak," said Crowton. "Just work and work and go right to the end and if you just keep battling and keep working you move forward and I've always wanted to move forward. That's one thing that I didn't say that I meant to say is, I really want to thank the players.

"Our players, gosh, I wish we could have been in bowl games every year and there was only one out of the four years I was here. The players where a great example to me because we have great character players on the team, and I appreciate them for their hard work, their dedication, their loyalty. This year, with all the things that were going, they were able to focus and that was amazing to me. They were in a position to win 8 of our 11 games and I really appreciate those guys. As far as our mind set, I felt like I was going to work until I felt like it was time to move on and after my discussions with the administration and as we talked about it. They had some concerns and I thought about those concerns and I understand them because the program is bigger than I am and this is a great program. For it to go forward at this time, I just feel like I can still get it done if I had that opportunity go keep moving, but at the time looking at the players and everything, it's just time to let somebody else move into this spot.

"I love coaching and I love these players, it's nice being here, but the situation here is just going to go into a different direction and I think that‘s all I can say on that. I'm hard headed, I'm optimistic and I think I can get it done any where and always. It doesn‘t always work that way but that‘s my mind set is. I‘m going to go learn, and as soon as I‘m done here and when I get the opportunities, I‘m going to go learn from the guys who are having a lot of success from guys who are having success all across the country and I'm going to get better. I just think it's time right now. With me and the administration going through all that, it's just time for a change. This program is bigger than me, Gary Crowton."

With BYU being in a better position now than when he first took over the program, Crowton has a simple wish and a little advice for his successor.

"I want him to win, I can tell you that," said the coach. "I think they're in good shape now. Just recruit well and don't let the recruiting slip by because it's hard to make it up with a lot of guys going on missions. I think our conference needs the type of offense that is uniquely special so that you can just plug in people that you don‘t just have to over power everybody because it‘s not quite as talented as some of these south east conference teams are. I think you have to have kind of a unique tune and I think that's what Utah has this year and what Boise (State) has that, and I think we had that in 2001. We lost it when we lost the mobile quarterback spot and we were working to get that back and I think that's important when you want to be evaluated on a national level."

Crowton concluded his portion of the press conference by talking about another meeting that still awaits him.

"I have not talked to the players and I will talk to them," said Crowton. "I've talked to one player and that's all. He gave me a call and he's the only one I've talked to and it went well. I've talked to some seniors but not telling them this was going to happen. I didn't feel that was fair to them because my moment with them was their moment through all the hard work they put in there. There will be a time when I'll address the players, but I really love those football players and I think they're just really great young men. Thanks for your time and for your support and I appreciate all you guys do and I'm going to miss you…"

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