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The BYU Cougars football team is the college football program representing Brigham Young University, a private research university owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and located in Provo, Utah, United States. The Cougars began collegiate football competition in 1922, and have won 23 conference titles and 1 national title. The team has competed in several different athletic conferences during its history, but since July 1, 2011, it has competed as an Independent. The team plays home games at the 63,470-person-capacity LaVell Edwards Stadium on the university's campus.
BYU traces its football roots back to the late 19th century. Benjamin Cluff became the third principal of Brigham Young Academy (the precursor to BYU) in 1892 (the school was converted into a university in 1903) and was influenced by his collegiate studies at the University of Michigan to bring athletic competition to Brigham Young. The first BYA football team in 1896 played the University of Utah (winning 12-0), the Elks, the Crescents, the YMCA of Salt Lake City, the Wheel Club of Denver, and Westminster College; and it ultimately won the championship. In its second year of competition, the BYA football team won the championship too, but as a result of an accidental football-related death in Utah in 1900, football was banned from all LDS Church schools until 1919.
After a twenty-year ban on football, the sport was brought back to BYU on an intramural basis in 1919, and intercollegiate games were resumed in 1920 under coach Alvin Twitchell. BYU was admitted to the Rocky Mountain Conference in 1921 and had its first winning year in 1929 under the helm of coach G. Ott Romney, who BYU recruited from Montana State University the year before. Romney and his successor Eddie Kimball ushered in a new era in Cougar football in which the team went 65–51–12 between 1928–1942. In 1932, the Cougars posted a 8–1 record and outscored their opponents 188-50, which remains one of the school's finest seasons on record. The university did not field a team from 1943–1945 due to World War II, and in 1949 suffered its only winless season, going 0–11.
The team began to rebuild in the mid-1950s, recruiting University of Rhode Island head coach Hal Kopp to lead the Cougars, whom achieved back-to-back winning seasons in 1957 and 1958, led by southpaw quarterback Jared Stephens and nose tackle Gavin Anae. In 1961, Eldon "The Phantom" Fortie became the school's first All-American, and in 1962, BYU moved to the Western Athletic Conference. In 1964, Cougar Stadium was built, which included a capacity of 30,000, and in 1965, head coach Tommy Hudspeth led the Cougars to their first conference championship with a record of 6-4.