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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, August 19, 2000

Edwards likeable,
but not BYU

I'VE always rooted against BYU, especially when the Cougars played the University of Hawaii Rainbows in any sport.

Maybe a little more so in football, because UH never had any success against them except the unforgettable back-to-back victories in 1989 and 1990, thanks to an angel of a quarterback named Garrett Gabriel.

The Rainbows -- as the UH football team has been known before this century -- also beat the Cougars two other times.

But in all of the games against BYU, I've never disliked its head football coach LaVell Edwards.

He always conducted himself as a gracious gentleman, even to a certain sportswriter who sometimes got carried away when the football 'Bows played his Cougars.

Old LaVell must have realized that when UH lost in such frustrating ways and by scores of 13-3, 18-13, 10-2, 16-14, 24-23 and 13-12 it was time to show some understanding and Christian charity.

Besides, we have something in common. We both love the game of golf. So, he can't be all that bad, can he?

And so, it's with regret to hear that Edwards will retire at the end of this season, to close out a remarkable 28-year career as BYU's head coach.

Regret, not ever seeing him again on the sidelines, arms folded, at times glum-faced even when his Cougars were passing opponents dizzy.

Of course, UH hasn't played BYU after the Great WAC Rift following the 1998 season.

There are plans for the two schools to renew their athletic rivalry in the future. But it will be a football future without LaVell Edwards on the BYU sideline.

There are two incidents involving Edwards that I will never forget. And both times he earned my respect and admiration, even if I always rooted against his football team for simply being BYU.

The first occurred after the Rainbows' thrilling 36-32 victory over the Cougars before a sellout crowd at Aloha Stadium in 1992 when UH went on to win its first WAC football championship and beat Illinois in the Holiday Bowl.

It was an emotional game as all UH-BYU football games were.

BYU tight end Byron Rex caught a go-ahead touchdown in the fantastic fourth quarter in which 42 points were scored.

Rex taunted UH safety Bryan Addison as he crossed the goal line, holding the football behind his back.

If that wasn't enough, Rex spewed out a few expletives and gave an obscene gesture to the fans sitting near the North end zone who were booing him.

HIS profanity was picked up by field microphones on the Blue and White network which televised the game live back to Utah. Even BYU fans were outraged.

Edwards not only disciplined Rex, he had him write a letter of apology to the fans in Hawaii.

Rex's letter was faxed to the Star-Bulletin, addressed to me. Guess Old LaVell knew more than well that if anybody would get on BYU's case, it would be me.

What really won me over as a LaVell Edwards fan, though, was his class act the last time BYU played here. The last time UH played BYU in football, for now anyway.

That was two years ago.

BYU, a charter member of the WAC, was leaving to join the newly formed Mountain West Conference.

Edwards did his version of the "Senior Walk," spending several minutes walking around the Aloha Stadium turf.

When asked afterward why, Edwards said that Hawaii always had a special place in his heart.

Now, how could anyone hate a guy like that?

Bill Kwon has been writing about
sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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