The rise and fall: An inside look at the decline of BYU’s marquee sports programs

1 of 27 View 27 Items Scott G Winterton, Deseret News BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum (center) and other offensive players sit on the bench as BYU and LSU play in the Superdome in New Orleans on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. Related Links Dick Harmon: BYU's historic 9th loss to close the home season a rerun of entire 2017 campaign Brad Rock: BYU should warn Liberty independence is no picnic Holmoe: Despite disappointment of missing out on Big 12 invite, BYU is 'in a good spot' PROVO — It was the golden age of BYU sports. The late 1970s and early 1980s were to Cougar athletics what the '60s and '70s were to rock ’n’ roll. In 1980, Jim McMahon threw a Hail Mary touchdown pass to complete a 20-point comeback in the final three minutes of the Holiday Bowl, later to be known as the Miracle Bowl. Three months later, Danny Ainge famously dribbled from one end of the court to the other to beat Notre Dame and send the Cougars to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Later that spring the BYU golf team won the NCAA championship. The football team produced All-American and future NFL quarterbacks like an assembly line. After a half-century of futility, the Cougars won conference championships with boring regularity and in 1984 won the national championship. That same year BYU graduates Paul Cummings, Doug Padilla and Henry Marsh won the three distance races at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Los Angeles, and Ed Eyestone was the NCAA cross-country champion (a year later he would claim the triple crown of distance running by winning NCAA titles in cross-country and the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs in track). Wally Joyner, Cory Snyder and Rick Aguilera made waves in the major leagues. McMahon won the Super Bowl. It seemed the run of BYU fortune would never end. But it did. Interviews with former coaches, former BYU athletic directors, players, alumni and an Continue Reading

Alex Jones Will Never Stop Being Alex Jones

AUSTIN — It was the winter of 1997 and Alex Jones couldn’t stop getting punched in the face.Out on the cracked asphalt of Austin Public Access Television’s parking lot, under the sprawling Texas live oaks, Jones was very much losing a fight to a man known affectionately in Austin’s alternative media scene as "SpaceHitler."According to multiple reports and interviews with two eyewitnesses, for months, SpaceHitler — real name: Clayton Counts — had been prank-calling Jones’ largely unsuccessful public-access TV show and mocking the exasperated host as "Jarhead Jones" until his call was disconnected. On this particular day, Counts and a gaggle of friends showed up to an ACTV open house with the intention of taunting the 22-year-old host in person.According to one witness, Counts’s crew traded insults with Jones for a few minutes until one of Counts’s friends started back in with Jones’ least favorite barb: Jarhead.That’s when Jones asked them to “step outside.”It's not entirely clear just what happened next — a police report tells only Jones’ side of the story — but witnesses to the brawl said the broadcaster bolted to his car, rummaged under his driver’s seat, and mimed tucking something in the back of his waistband while muttering about using a gun for self-defense."Go ahead and shoot me," one of Counts’s friends said, before knocking Jones square in the face with a surprise haymaker.“Alex tried to fight back but was throwing wild punches with no form,” one witness, Charlie Sotelo, said recently. “The guy is no fighter.”Eventually, someone called the police. Counts and his friends left before they arrived. Sotelo stayed behind with a bleeding and increasingly belligerent Jones, who was pacing back and forth, raving about “counterculture Generation X types” and spinning up the sort of conspiracy-soaked rant that would decades Continue Reading

Former Stanford QB Brett Nottingham emerges from the shadows to lead the Columbia Lions

Columbia quarterback Brett Nottingham, a transfer from Stanford and one-time heir apparent to All-American Andrew Luck, walked from his campus dorm, through the wrought-iron gate at the corner of Broadway and 116th Street. It was 7:55 a.m. Two coach buses idled outside the Miller Theatre. They were bound for Baker Field, the lone, lined patch of turf dedicated to the university’s football team. Rain fell hard. Nottingham assumed a window seat on the second bus, absorbing the commute up Broadway, past the Cotton Club on 125th Street, up the Henry Hudson Parkway, by the Cloisters and onto Dyckman Street, trekking 100 blocks to find 100 yards. He descended the bus steps, changed into his full uniform and pads, then threw spirals toward Spuyten Duyvil Bridge. “Feel the wind as it changes and shifts,” says offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo. Few know how to navigate turbulence as well as Nottingham. He committed to UCLA in high school, then changed his route to Stanford. He learned alongside Luck in the quarterbacks room for two seasons, preparing for his chance under center, only to watch head coach Jim Harbaugh depart for the San Francisco 49ers and Josh Nunes beat him out for the starting position. He held a clipboard once more as Nunes faltered and sophomore Kevin Hogan, a more mobile option, leapfrogged Nottingham to lead the Cardinal to the Pac 12 championship. Nottingham requested a release from his scholarship in between that title victory and the bowl game and found an unlikely safe harbor in Morningside Heights. “It was traumatic, and there was a lot of change in his life,” Columbia coach Pete Mangurian says. “I asked Brett, ‘What are you looking for? Where do you want to go?’ I was very honest. People get excited, but it can be tricky with transfers. Would people gravitate to him? Is it worth it? Clearly it would be an adjustment. We had growing pains and turmoil here. We still had guys not fully Continue Reading

Rex Ryan and Jeffs Weeks have spent a lifetime coaching football and raising hell

Jeff Weeks, the resident journeyman inside the coaching offices at One Jets Drive, sits on a purple exercise ball, never a chair, behind the metal desk in his first-floor workspace. No photos illuminate the white walls; only a dry-erase board marked with defensive schemes and assignments sheds light on his role as the outside linebackers coach. He explains his inability to stay in one place for long, tracing his steps from a restless childhood to rooming with Rex Ryan in college to holding 14 jobs over 25 years. “I was hyper, real hyper as a kid,” he says, leaning forward, his rear now off the ball. “I got in trouble late in the afternoons. It was always English class, our sixth hour. It wasn’t a subject I cared to sit and listen to, so it was tough to settle down after lunch.” He shifts his weight back, reflects some more. “I never loved business calculus in college either, so I said, ‘I ain’t sitting in this damn seat for a long time.’ Now, football, I could run wild all day on the field.” Little changes for the rover. Once a hard-charging wideout, Weeks, 51, continues to chase the wobbling ball across the country, most recently picking up with Ryan, his best friend at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. Fired from Ryan’s staff as a defensive assistant following a disappointing 8-8 campaign in 2012, Weeks was allowed back by Ryan’s side in February when general manager John Idzik replaced Mike Tannenbaum. Ryan was looking for loyalty heading into what many believe will be his last stand as a Jet. In Weeks, he re-enlisted the Okie who long ago ran through a pane of glass in Will Rogers Hall, an all-girls dorm, to catch a football thrown by Ryan. “Weeks is the one who has the shovel and knows where all the bones of the bodies buried in the Ryans’ past are,” said Mark Carrier, the former Jets assistant coach. “He tells me all these things, and I’m Continue Reading

NBA Power Rankings: LeBron James’ all-around play has the Miami Heat in the top spot

Dwyane Wade is looking more mortal by the day, but LeBron James is only adding to his case as being the NBA's best player. The three-time MVP winner has the defending champion Heat in first place in the East with his magnificent all-around play - and in first place in our first NBA power rankings of the season. Here's how we see the NBA, from top to bottom: 1. Miami (11-3) - The Heat is in the midst of an easy part of its schedule, with Saturday's game vs. the Nets only its fourth over a 16-day stretch. You'd think that would help Wade, whose lack of explosion shows he's losing the battle to Father Time. 2. Memphis (11-2) - The Grizzlies have been as good as advertised, with big early-season wins over the Heat and a dominating performance against the Thunder in Oklahoma City. 3. San Antonio (13-4) - The NBA's model franchise ran afoul of David Stern by having Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green skip the Miami game. The commissioner wants to determine who should play? He needs to go buy a team. 4. Oklahoma City (12-4) - The Thunder got the better of its former super sixth man, James Harden, in his only trip back to Oklahoma City this season when OKC downed the Rockets. 5. NETS (10-4) - They've sent messages to the Knicks and Celtics this week that they're for real, but can they do the same thing  against the Heat in Miami? 6. KNICKS (10-4) - They can beat the Wizards (Friday) and Suns (Sunday) without Jason Kidd, if he can't go, but his back injury had better not be serious and force him out for too long. He's the one who makes Knicks pass the ball. 7. Indiana (7-8) - Considering that they're in the midst of a brutal opening five weeks  - 12 of their first 18 games are on the road - they're doing just fine. 8. Atlanta (9-4) - The Hawks' six-game winning streak might be the least impressive ever, as they've notched wins vs. Charlotte (two),  Sacramento, Orlando, Washington, and the struggling Clippers, Continue Reading

Time for Tour to pass the test

Golf, in my opinion, is the greatest game on Earth. It also has the dopiest rules in all of sports. Take 18-2a, the one where if a ball moves on its own after address, it's a one-shot penalty. For what? Telekinesis? So why would an organization like the PGA Tour, which adheres to such picayune regulations, not have a rule in place that prohibits the use of performance-enhancing substances? The Tour has been dragging its FootJoys on the issue for almost a year since the LPGA formulated a drug policy of its own to begin in 2008. Finally this week, Commissioner Tim Finchem began his backswing. It's about time. With Tiger Woods' biceps bulging from under his new skin-tight shirts at Oakmont last week, water cooler talk around America is asking unnecessary questions about the face (and body) of golf. It's a preposterous thought. Tiger is a basic nerd and he's much too smart to risk blowing up his billion-dollar image on this kind of landmine. He doesn't use all the length he potentially has (i.e. last year's British Open, where he hit one driver all week) and he's not even as long as Angel Cabrera, last week's U.S. Open champion. And it certainly doesn't look as if Cabrera - aka the Duck - has shaped his burly frame with steroids. But that's precisely why a testing policy is needed now - and why Woods thinks that tomorrow isn't soon enough for one. If golf is clean, great. But no one would be surprised if there are players out there trying to get an edge. One of the most desirable effects of steroids is that they cut down on recovery time, and the way golfers train today, and with the supplements so prevalent, it's not out of the question that something could find its way into a protein shake. If that's the case, golf should be cleansed before it sinks into baseball's black hole. While the PGA Tour Policy Board decides on a list of banned substances, steroids and HGH might not be the biggest problem. Ask any decent player, even an 8.3-handicap like Continue Reading

America’s Most Wanted

First it was Alex Smith, then Ronnie Brown, Braylon Edwards, Cadillac Williams and Cedric Benson. Then, with the sixth pick, the Titans selected the player with elite coverage skills, sprinter's speed, return ability and the best nickname. He also had severe character issues that had sent him plummeting down some draft boards. The Titans' decision to make Jones an instant millionaire caught the attention of one GM, who says he wouldn't have taken Jones with the first pick in the first round, the last pick in the last round or any pick in between. "Off our board," the GM says. "I don't want him. I was not the only one. I don't care if he returns two touchdowns and beats us. My principles are that way." At West Virginia, Jones was arrested and sentenced to a year in prison for a bar fight. The sentence was suspended, and Jones was placed on two years probation. Red flags surrounded him as teams tried to figure out where to put him on their boards. "There are always guys who are eliminated," the GM says. "They have a multitude of baggage and are eliminated." With as many as 50 NFL players arrested in the past year, the league has a crisis. It's in jeopardy of turning off fans and sponsors tired of seeing players' names in police reports more frequently than in game summaries. As a result, teams are putting unprecedented importance on players' character heading into Saturday's draft at Radio City Music Hall. "Character is extremely important and a major part of how you select players," Chargers GM A.J. Smith says, "Character comes out constantly during tough times. My philosophy is you are a Charger one year at a time. What we look at is on the field, off the field, production and work ethic." Smith backed up his words by cutting two problem players right after the season: Starting safety Terrance Kiel, who pleaded guilty this past season to misdemeanor drug charges after shipping codeine-based cough syrup to Texas, and linebacker Steve Foley, Continue Reading

Now hear this NHL

Today at 2 p.m., hockey fans all over the area will pack up their lawn chairs, take off the sunglasses and huddle their families inside for three hours of exciting Rangers-Sabres action on NBC. Unfortunately for the NHL, the other 97% of the population will do anything but watch hockey on TV. They'll either stay outside in the sun or spend their viewing hours watching baseball, NASCAR or that informercial starring Air Supply. Sad, but true. But it's not a lost cause for the NHL, which gets lower ratings than "Emily's Reasons Why Not." Actually, just a few tweaks here and there, nothing major, could make hockey a ratings bonanza. GET THE VIEWERS INVOLVED: There are two reasons why "American Idol" is so huge. Not only do viewers tune in to see how incoherent Paula Abdul will be on a nightly basis, they also get to play a role in the outcome of the show. So instead of letting the mystery men in Toronto decide disputed goals, the NHL should let the viewers make the call via phone-in vote. The league could show the play once or twice and then have a 4-minute window where fans could vote - goal or not a goal. Imagine the excitement that would generate. Plus, you have to figure the Rangers would get every call. CROSS PROMOTION: Say what you want about the Fox Network, but they certainly know how to sell their shows during a sports broadcast and their sports during a show. How else can you explain David (Bud Bundy) Faustino getting great seats to a World Series game? NBC should do the same. On an NHL broadcast, "30 Rock" star Alec Baldwin could pop in and treat Marek Malik as he would his daughter. On the other side of the coin, Henrik Lundqvist's favorite team - the Islander Ice Girls - could work the brief cases on a hockey-themed "Deal or No Deal," or Glen Sather could get a recurring role on "The Office" as Dwight Schrute's goofy cousin. CHANGE VERSUS: In case you don't know - and judging from the ratings, you probably don't - the Versus Network is the NHL's Continue Reading

SUNDAY MORNING QB. With T.O. in town, Philly fans shift into high jeer

The Eagles have ordered extra security for The Return Of T. O. today in Philly. They also might want to consider calling "Eagles Court" back into session. They could set up a courtroom in the basement of The Linc, just like they once had at old Veterans Stadium, with a judge handing down punishment - fines, jail time, loss of season tickets - to fans who get a little too feisty. There's not a more combustible mix in sports right now than Terrell Owens and passionate Eagles fans who think that he destroyed their team last season. It took only a couple of months, but Terrell Owens transformed himself last year from a Philadelphia icon for his courageous Super Bowl performance only 46 days after ankle surgery into an all-time villain. Eagles fans will conduct their own referendum on exactly how they feel about T. O., starting when the bus pulls up with the hated Cowboys and he steps onto the field in front of his former fans for the first time since Andy Reid kicked him off the team for the final nine games last year. "I'm probably the most hated guy coming into Philly this weekend, so I expect the worst," Owens said. "That's how passionate they are. When I was there, they were loving me. Now that I'm on the opposite side, they're going to be hating me. " Owens ruined what should have been the perfect situation for him in Philadelphia: He had Donovan McNabb, a Pro Bowl quarterback; Reid, a coach who doesn't run the ball; and, he had won over the toughest fans in sports. Then he went and blew it up by getting greedy, demanding a new contract just one year into his seven-year deal. "One guy doesn't make a team," McNabb said last week. "Break a team, maybe. " Last year, after Reid banned Owens, some Eagles fans, before a game against Dallas, placed their No. 81 jerseys into a casket, along with other T. O. products, and staged a mock funeral for him. That was OK with Owens, who pointed out that he gets a cut of his memorabilia sales. When the Continue Reading

Police find Donnie Wahlberg a real ‘Blue’-chipper; Howard Stern eyes new directions after ‘America’s Got Talent’

Donnie Wahlberg may play a cop on “Blue Bloods,” but he was also treated like a man in uniform when he attended the grand opening of a Wahlburgers restaurant in Coney Island. “Donnie was there early and had most of the cops in Coney Island trailing him,” a source tells [email protected] “His ‘Blue Bloods’ character, Danny, is a cop favorite. He hugged and took photos with the cops. At that moment the area across from Nathan’s was the safest in Brooklyn. A sea of cops!” Another spy overheard Donnie, ever the gentleman, telling the group of New York’s Finest that they were the ones who deserved to be on the carpet, not him. Donnie was joined by big brother Paul Wahlberg, a chef who runs the chain of burger restaurants the family started in Boston. Along with Donnie and Paul, Hollywood bigwig bro Mark Wahlberg put whatever rumored rifts they may have had on the back burner and came out to support the family. While Donnie’s wife, Jenny McCarthy, wasn’t at the ribbon-cutting, Mark brought his spouse, Rhea Durham, to the festivities. “She was in a ripped-jeans casual look. Mark was a lot less approachable than Donnie,” adds our source. Donnie spoke about the neighborhood, saying, “I love that this is in Brooklyn, because this can help revitalize the area if we bring a business here.” “He was jumping around saying, ‘Hello Brooklyn!’ He was excited,” says our source. THERE’S A STERN-OVER AT ‘TALENT’ Howard Stern revealed he won’t be returning to “America’s Got Talent” Wednesday, saying on his SiriusXM satellite show that he’s now going through a “career evaluation.” The King of All Media said it was very hard to tell NBC execs his decision, but that the show needs to return to L.A. if he’s not on it, and they need to book a venue for next season. Stern says he has two enticing TV offers Continue Reading