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Dave McCann: Remembering Dad this Father’s Day

The late longtime executive director of the Cougar Club in Provo always had time for Dave and his nine siblings. Here is his story

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Dave McCann, right, poses with his dad Dale, in Austin, Texas, when BYU traveled to there to play the Longhorns in 1987.

Dave McCann, right, poses with his dad Dale in Austin, Texas, when the BYU football team traveled to the Lone Star State to play the Longhorns in 1987.

Courtesy McCann family

It is 6:10 p.m. The final script for my sportscast is written, a dusting of makeup is hiding my late afternoon shadow and I have just enough time to call Utah Valley Hospital in Provo before going out to the KLAS-TV studio in Las Vegas.

Dad remembers not being sick a single day of his life before he turned 30, but is hard-pressed to find a time since — when he felt whole. This hospital visit was triggered by pain in his lower extremities.

At 57, and 25 years into his run as executive director of the BYU Cougar Club, Dad mastered the ability to work, coach Little League baseball and serve in the church, all while feeling lousy.

A bout with testicular cancer in 1974 had he and my mom considering funeral plans, but to the surprise of his medical staff, he survived. In another medical stunner, after being told the cancer would prevent any future children, my parents had four more.

A rare, cureless form of polyarteritis arrived next, which required steroids to allow him to function. This became a long and painful battle. But no matter the challenge he just kept going. He was like a Timex to us — he took a licking and kept on ticking.

Reaching for my phone, I expected the same pattern to continue. He would get a prognosis, he would beat it, and life would go on.

“Hey Dad, what did the doctor say?” I ask.

“Well. We finally know what’s going on,” he says. “They went in and found a tumor in my pancreas. It was so big they didn’t even try to take it out. So, it’s not very good.”

“How long do they think it will take to get better?” I ask, almost as if I didn’t hear what he had just said.

The tone turns serious.

“I don’t think I’m going to get better this time,” he says.

My stomach drops and my mind starts to race.

“What do you mean? You always get better? “What kind of time did they give you?”

I can’t believe I’m even asking that question.

“It’s hard to say. I hope to hang on until Deven (my younger brother) gets home from his mission, but we don’t know. Give me a call later tonight and we hope to have some more information. Love you!”

Looking at the clock, it’s now 6:19. I have four minutes to be on set. I hang up the phone and close my office door and start to cry and can’t stop.  

At 6:22 I wipe my tears and with my makeup literally running, I sprint to the set. Just before the commercial ends, the floor director looks at me and says, “Dude, what’s wrong with your eyes?”

“Not enough sleep,” I joke. I can’t think of anything else to say. I shouldn’t even be out here, but there was no time to get a substitute. At this point, my greatest fear is I’m going to lose it during the sportscast. So, I take a deep breath, offer a quick prayer, grab ahold of the desk with both hands and hang on.

Back in my office at 6:28, I close the door and cry again. The North Star of our family, including Mom and my nine siblings, was falling from the sky and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

Six weeks after the call, on April 3, 1998, standing at the pulpit of the Sharon Stake Center in Orem, I cry again while paying tribute at Dad’s funeral along with my eldest brother Dale, Ron Hyde (Dad’s best friend) and BYU president Merrill J. Bateman.

Dad and the Air Force

Dale McCann was a wrestler and cheerleader at West High in Salt Lake City. As young boys, my brothers and I were OK with the wrestling, but we didn’t talk about the cheerleading. He contended that “back then, it was an honor to be a male cheerleader.”         

After high school, and following a spiritual prompting, he joined the Air Force. He wanted to get away from some challenges that he feared would take his life in a direction that was different from what he wanted.


Dale McCann poses in his U.S. Air Force uniform. After graduating from West High in Salt Lake City, McCann joined the Air Force, where he later met his wife while serving an assignment near Peru, Indiana.

Courtesy McCann family

Toward the end of basic training, Dad broke his leg while wrestling in the barracks at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. After three months of recovery at the base hospital (Wilford Hall Medical Center), he was shipped to a three-year assignment at Grissom Air Force Base, 10 miles south of Peru, Indiana.

It was there, on a Sunday morning at church, that he met Andrea Schmidt. They married three years later and moved to Provo to attend BYU. Dad always joked that his mission in life was to “rescue our mom from Indiana” — a joke our mother never thought was funny!

Together, they had 10 children, who have had 47 grandchildren. Some of those grandchildren have had 19 great grandchildren with two more on the way — all as a result of his willingness to follow a prompting as an 18-year-old.

Years later, I was assigned to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to San Antonio, Texas. My first area was Lackland Air Force Base, where we ministered to those suffering at Wilford Hall Medical Center.

Dad and sports

A bag of left-handed golf clubs sat in the corner of the garage throughout my entire childhood in Orem. They only moved when someone was assigned to clean it.

It’s the only thing our dad had in common with Phil Mickelson — another lefty.

Dad never felt he could justify golfing for four hours on a Saturday while mom was home with our army of kids. He did, however, coach our baseball teams for as long as his health would allow.

I begged and begged for him to let me pitch. When he returned home from work, I’d drag him to the side yard to practice. He was patient but seemed to have a set number in his head for how many pitches I could bounce into his shins before waving me off with his giant-sized left-handed first baseman’s mitt and seek refuge in the house.

Finally, the day came, and I was on the mound warming up to face an opponent in my Orem City Little League debut. I fired a pitch into the catcher and while I waited for him to throw it back, another teammate off to the side thought I was waiting for him to throw me a ball.

As I prepared to catch the ball from the catcher, the undetected second ball hit me in the head and knocked me out cold. I woke up on the couch and Dad never let me pitch again.

As we grew older, and as Dad’s health issues increased, he and Mom would park along the street in left field and watch our games from the car. If we looked over and saw that the car was gone, we knew he had either had enough of the umpiring or his body was worn out for the day.

Marc, the youngest of the McCanns, was still in high school when Dad passed away. Prior to his season opener at quarterback for Orem High, he lagged behind in the locker room when the Tigers took the field.

An assistant coach went back to check on him. He found Marc sitting at his locker writing the words “Dad” on his cleats. It would be the first time he ever took the field without him in the stands.

Dad and BYU

Dad’s job with the Cougar Club did wonders for BYU, but it also gave us kids full access to the Marriott Center, Cougar Stadium, and his soda pop machine in the old Alumni House — or so we thought.

To our delight, almost all of our family vacations conveniently took place in the same cities where BYU was playing a bowl game and Dad happened to have tickets. What a coincidence! We were living the dream.

With success on the field, the Cougar Club grew into a financial powerhouse, supporting recruiting efforts and the overall growth of the athletic department.

After his death, Mom assigned us to clean out Dad’s office on campus. We walked into the room where we had been countless times before. The setting was surreal. On his desk was a “to-do” list for the day. His lunch was off to the side. It seemed like he was just down the hall, so my older brothers and I sat down and waited for him to walk in.

Dad had gone home not feeling well and expected to return, just like everybody else does, but he never made it back.

Even while speaking at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2002, I expected him to walk through the door at LaVell Edwards Stadium to ask why we were spotlighting him and not someone more deserving.

BYU will ride into the Big 12 Conference on a paved road on July 1, 2023. While he would never take credit, Dad was a paver — right alongside the late-greats LaVell Edwards, Glen Tuckett, President Rex E. Lee and myriad others.

Most importantly to the McCanns, he was our paver and our example.

While driving back to Las Vegas after his funeral, I called his cellphone expecting Mom to answer. After a few rings, a shockwave raced through my body as unexpectedly I heard Dad’s voice; “You have reached Dale McCann. I am away from my phone. Please leave a message and I will call you right back.”

Again, the tears flowed. I called the number for the next 30 miles so I could hear his voice. What I wouldn’t give at that moment, and now, even 24 years later, to have him call me back. I’ve got a lot of questions for him.

Death comes to every family, and while the separation is hard, it’s our memories with those who have gone before us that keep them close — and for the McCanns, it’s especially so on Father’s Day.

Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “After Further Review,” co-host for “Countdown to Kickoff” and the “Postgame Show” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv.


Dave McCann poses for a picture in Provo on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Mengshin Lin, Deseret News