PROVO — The farewell for LaVell Edwards was a landmark day for BYU — and not just because it was Edwards' final home game.

Prior to kickoff, BYU President Merrill J. Bateman announced that the school's Board of Trustees has approved the construction of a new athletic complex. Then, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that Cougar Stadium will from be known from now on as LaVell Edwards Stadium, Home of the BYU Cougars.

"It was totally a stunner for me. I didn't know that would happen," Edwards said. "It's been a very emotional and a very special evening for me."

After that announcement, the Cougars throttled New Mexico, 37-13.

"The only thing that could have gone better," BYU athletic director Val Hale said wryly, "is if the temperature would have been 20 degrees warmer."

Hale was happy with the change of the stadium's name made by the Board of Trustees. "It's a fitting tribute for a great person and coach," Hale said. "This stadium as we know it wouldn't be here if it weren't for him. He put BYU football on the map. LaVell Edwards Stadium has a nice ring to it already."

The athletic facility, meanwhile, will house a 120-yard football field; a 350-meter track; all the athletic department offices for coaches and administrators; the student-athlete center; a training room; strength and conditioning facilities; and team meeting rooms.

"We've been dreaming of this and planning it for 15 years," Hale said. "This is a major piece of the puzzle to take our program to the next level."

But first comes the fund-raising effort. Cost of the facility could be between $40-60 million. After his retirement, Edwards will help raise funds for the project. Groundbreaking for the facility is expected to take place in three years.

TRIBUTES TO LAVELL: Before the game, Edwards received a game ball from President Hinckley. President Hinckley also presented Edwards a game ball that was signed 16 years ago by by the 1984 national championship team.

Following the game, President Merrill J. Bateman gave Edwards a bronze statue of a cougar, a smaller version of the one that stands in front of the stadium. Bateman also announced an annual scholarship in the name of Edwards and his wife, Patti, will be given to a junior who has excelled in football, academics and leadership abilities.

To close the evening, a video presentation featuring highlights Edwards' career was shown on the big screen in the stadium. That was followed by a fireworks show.

EXTRA POINTS:Marc Wilson, Pete Van Valkenburg and Jason Buck are among the former players who were in attendance at the game Saturday . . . KSL radio's Paul James, who is retiring after 35 years of broadcasting BYU games, was honored at halftime . . . Edwards' all-time record in Provo is 133-33. BYU is 14-0 against New Mexico in Provo under Edwards . . . More than 9,250,000 fans have attended games at Cougar Stadium since its expansion to 65,000 seats in 1982.


E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com