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Edwards Stadium? Not quite yet

Brigham Young University's Cougar Stadium may be "The House That LaVell Built," but there's surprisingly little public support for naming the stadium after the popular BYU football coach.

LaVell Edwards himself shrugs off the idea in typically unconcerned fashion."It's never going to happen," Edwards said. "I don't have any feeling about that one way or another. You have to be dead or something."

Actually, you don't have to be dead to have a building at BYU named after you, but it does help. And if you're not dead, being retired is the next best thing. Edwards, 67, happily meets neither of those criteria.

Maybe that explains why Utah County residents give Edwards such high approval ratings but haven't warmed to the prospect of going to games at Reuben LaVell Edwards Stadium.

In a poll conducted for the Deseret News by Dan Jones & Associates, only 30 percent of Utah County residents said they think the stadium should be named after Edwards. Fifty-three percent said they do not think the stadium should be renamed, and 18 percent said they don't know. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

In the same poll, however, nearly 80 percent of respondents said they think Edwards is doing a good job as head coach, and 66 percent said they do not think he should retire before the 1998 season.

At the University of Nebraska, there was little talk of naming a facility for long-time coach Tom Osborne until Osborne announced his retirement near the end of last season. Osborne officially retired Wednesday, and next year the defending national co-champion Cornhuskers will play home games on Tom Osborne Field in Lincoln, Neb.'s Memorial Stadium.

For many BYU football fans, naming the stadium, or at least the field, after Edwards is a good idea whose time has yet to arrive.

"Definitely," said Burdette Wiser, a member of the Cougar Club. "The stadium is as much a result of him as anything else.

"It's either Edwards or nobody."

BYU student Darren Wilcox, sports editor of the campus newspaper, also thinks putting Orem native Edwards' name on the stadium would be a smart move.

"It would be a good honor," he said. "It probably would be something they should think about in three or four years.

"Naming a stadium after him seems to be pushing him out the door, and he still has a few years left in him."

Edwards' down-to-earth yet witty personality, along with the national championship and slew of conference championships he has brought to Provo make him a local legend and recognized football guru.

"LaVell is a great citizen who is widely admired here and elsewhere," said BYU Advancement Vice President R.J. Snow.

Although Edwards has been a popular and successful head coach for nearly three decades, naming the stadium after him - even once he retires - is not a lock. BYU's policy favors naming buildings for their function rather than for an individual.

On campus, 27 buildings carry names based on their function, 16 were named after LDS Church leaders, 11 sport names of donors, seven were named for BYU professors or staff members and six have the name of a former BYU president. No building has been named for an athletic coach.

"I've heard discussion about it for years," said BYU Athletic Director Rondo Fehlberg of the Edwards Stadium idea. "My reaction is I'm not sure the stadium should be renamed any more than the Marriott Center should be changed to (Stan) Watts Arena."

BYU's football team has had essentially three home fields, none of which have carried an individual's name. Many of the school's first football games were played on a field called the Grandstand, where the Joseph Smith Building now stands. In 1928, the "hillside stadium" was completed near the present location of the Stephen L. Richards Building.

In 1964, two years after Edwards arrived at BYU as assistant football coach, the hillside stadium was abandoned in favor of the current stadium. It was later designated Cougar Stadium and was expanded in 1982.

Planning for the current stadium began just about the time Edwards left his coaching position at Granite High School in favor of BYU, so it might be facetious to suggest he built the facility singlehandedly. However, the stadium likely never would have been expanded to its current 65,000-seating capacity without the success Edwards' teams enjoyed during his first decade as head coach.

Also, the large video scoreboards at the north and south ends, which were added just in the past couple of years, were made possible by the success of Edwards' teams.

BYU officials have tentative plans for an indoor practice facility for the football team to use during inclement weather. Given the fact that the facility probably is at least three or four years away - about the time one might expect Edwards to be thinking about retirement - perhaps that facility could be named for the coach who revolutionized the college passing game.

Snow, one of the administrators who would have to approve any stadium name change, said there are no active proposals to name the stadium after Edwards. However, he said, he would not be surprised if there is talk about such a move.

BYU policy for naming and renaming buildings allows students, professors and staff members to submit a written proposal to the appropriate vice president; in this case, that's Snow.

Once the vice president reviews the proposal, it will either be denied or forwarded to the university president. If the president feels it has merit, he can hand the proposal to the campus planning and use committee, which will then make recommendations to take to the school's Board of Trustees. The board ultimately makes the decision.

BYU's policy does not require that a person for whom a building is to be named be either dead or retired. There is not a set waiting period after a person leaves BYU, either.

The policy says that persons for whom buildings are to be named should have "made a distinguished contribution of service, research, teaching or support to the university."

"It has been the practice to date that we don't normally name buildings after living individuals," said M. McClain Bybee, assistant advancement vice president for development.

Notable exceptions were the Marriott Center and Spencer W. Kimball Tower, which were christened while their namesakes were still alive.

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Additional information

Deseret News / Utah County Poll

Some have suggested that BYU's Cougar Stadium be renamed after coach LaVell Edwards. Do you think the stadium shoulc be renamed or not?

Definitely rename 17%

Probably rename 13%

Probably not rename 21%

Definitely not rename 32%

Don't know 18%

This poll of 405 Utah County residents was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates Dec. 10-16, 1997. It has a margin of error of +/- 5 percent.