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Coach Sark Leads Huskies Back To BYU
Release: 09/03/2010
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Sept. 3, 2010

UW Departs for BYU Friday. Follow along at CoachSark.com and the Dawg Blawg.

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2010 Gameday Central

By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing

SEATTLE - Steve Sarkisian is coming home to Brigham Young for the first time in 14 years.

Yet it won't be a full homecoming. This former mountain cat is now a dedicated Dawg.

While BYU honors Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Ty Detmer, Gifford Nielsen and Sarkisian as part of the Cougars' legacy of All-American quarterbacks with a banquet Friday night, the Huskies' second-year coach will stay with his team across town in Provo, Utah. Sarkisian will remain focused on Washington's season opener Saturday -- inside the stadium where Sarkisian went from a rare junior-college transfer quarterback to a record-setting Western Athletic Conference player of the year and second-team All-American in 1996.

"Nah, I'm just with our guys," Sarkisian said of his Huskies this weekend.

Same goes for the ceremony during Saturday's extended halftime. LaVell Edwards, the former coach and Cougars legend, will join all the former BYU star passers for that.

Sarkisian probably won't - though he hopes BYU can time it so he can slip into part of the presentation just as he comes out of Washington's locker room and onto the field with his team for second-half warmups.

Sarkisian senses those in Provo understand that he's conflicted: He'd love to participate in BYU's festivities, but his bigger want is preparing his Huskies for the start of their season full of big expecations.

"They know. It's such a football town, and all the football people, they know how important preparation is," Sarkisian said.

Edwards sure does. And the head coach for 29 years, with 257 wins - sixth-most all-time - with a national championship in 1984 endorses his former pupil's choice to stay with his Huskies.

"I know exactly how he feels," Edwards said in a telephone interview from his home in Provo, a few minutes from the Cougars' stadium that bears his name. "He has a chance to get something going with that team. They have a great quarterback, and I know they have big hopes for this season. He wants to get them started off right. I understand."

The now 79-year-old Edwards recruited the former USC baseball player out of California's El Camino junior college with the idea of him immediately starting at BYU.

Sarkisian did far more than start. He soared.

He threw 55 touchdown passes in two seasons at BYU. As a senior in 1996 he led the nation in passing efficiency, and the Cougars to a 14-1 record - the only loss coming at Washington. That wondrous season ended with a win in the Cotton Bowl.

Sarkisian never went back to BYU following that victory in Dallas. He flew straight home to California.

"I finished by degree online," he said of his sociology work. "I never went back."

He has returned to Provo, on drives to and from Canada when he played professionally there, and recently while joining Edwards at a fundraising event for a former BYU teammate stricken with cancer. And Sarkisian still has friends in the Cougars' program, including athletic director Tom Holmoe and fellow former quarterback Robbie Bosco, among others.

Yet this isn't the weekend for extended catch up on campus. Sarkisian's got a program revival to continue at Washington.

"It's a business trip, for sure," he said. "I'll take a few moments on Friday at the walk-thru to kind of reminisce. We had some great moments, some great wins there. But ultimately my concern is for these 105 kids that we have in our program today and the 76 that will traveling to Provo. This is their weekend. This is their day. So that will be my focus."

Sarkisian wasn't the typical BYU recruit. He was only the second junior-college quarterback Edwards ever signed, a few years after three years after Todd Herget. Edwards and his Cougars staff heard of a former baseball player lighting up the California junior-college league through the air and aggressively targeted him.

"We knew he was a pretty good one," Edwards said. "You could see he was a steady guy who was really sharp on his knowledge of the game. We were impressed with him fairly quickly."

Sarkisian was attracted to a high-profile quarterback laboratory that had already produced Super Bowl winners in Young and McMahon, in a beautiful setting 4,500 feet up into the Wasatch Mountains.

"It's a unique place," he says.

That includes its student life. Steeped in the traditions of the Mormon church, BYU's students are bound by an honor code that covers every aspect of their personal and scholastic lives.

No drugs. No alcohol. No earrings. No sleeveless shirts, even.

No problem for Sarkisian.

"I didn't get kicked out," the Catholic from Southern California said with a laugh.

If only he'd have shaved more often.

"The one thing that was hard for me ... I'm not a big shaver," Sarkisian says. "I'll go a couple days here without shaving.

"At BYU, you are not supposed to have facial hair. That one was tough for me. You are supposed to take a test and you go to the testing center and you are not shaven and they kick you back out and tell you to go home and not come back until you are clean shaven.

"I had a little bit difficult time with that one."

How often did Sarkisian get sent back because of his shaggy look?

"A few," he said. "I always thought I could sneak in there, but they wouldn't let me."

Edwards laughed when reminded of Sarkisian's shaving habits.

"He's not the only guy they've turned away, football player or not a football player. He's not the Lone Ranger on that one," Edwards said.

And Edwards says too many whiskers is about Sarkisian's only fault.

"He's from a great family. Great parents. They are great people," he said.

As for BYU's people, Sarkisian says he expects a warm welcome to their former hero.

At least he thinks so.

"Well, I hope than better than the first half in 1995 against Utah, when they were booing me," Sarkisian said, chuckling.

"It was a great experience for me at `The Y.' The fans were very good to me. The community was tremendous to me, my family. So I think it will be cordial."

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