Cedar City • Gary Crowton spent last fall coaching his son’s little league football team in St. George.
It ended up being a springboard to a bigger job.
In January, Crowton was hired as the new offensive coordinator at Southern Utah where, according to head coach Ed Lamb, he has attacked his new duties with exemplary passion.
“Our whole team has been impressed with the way he has thrown himself into this job,” Lamb said. “ … It’s been a pretty cool thing to see.”
Still, the big question remains.
How did Gary Crowton, the one-time head coach at BYU, a former NFL assistant and the ex-offensive coordinator at college giants LSU and Oregon, end up at little Southern Utah?
According to Crowton, the answer lies in a perfect storm of circumstances: timing, location, past relationships and — most importantly — his passion for coaching.
“I love working with the kids,” he says.
Ten years ago, Crowton was the head coach at BYU, where he had replaced legendary LaVell Edwards in 2001.
In his first season, Crowton guided the Cougars to a 12-2 record, including an undefeated Mountain West Conference championship.
It was Crowton’s high-water mark at BYU, however, and he was fired in 2004.
Last season, Crowton became the offensive coordinator of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. It was his 14th stop in a coaching career that started in 1982. But he was fired after a 1-6 start.
Crowton, 56, returned to the home he had purchased in St. George. He lives there with his wife and youngest three of the couple’s seven children.
“As soon as I left the CFL, I had a chance to go coach somewhere else,” Crowton said. “But I thought, ‘No, I’ll wait.’ … I really like St. George, my kids like going to school there, and I was able to coach my son’s team. I enjoyed that.”
Meanwhile, in Cedar City, Lamb guided Southern Utah to the best season in school history. The Thunderbirds finished 8-4 and earned their first-ever berth in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Lamb, however, wasn’t too busy to notice Crowton was unemployed and living 45 miles away.
“I’ve always kept track of Coach and admired the success he had,” said Lamb, who was a BYU graduate assistant under Crowton in 2001.
“I’ve always been super-impressed with his energy, his confidence and way he dealt with players. When I heard he was living in St. George and not working in football, I asked if we could have lunch.”
Throughout the fall, Crowton continued to get job offers — many from major colleges and a few from the NFL. But Southern Utah, the people in charge of its football program, and his newly discovered lifestyle prevailed.
By Christmas, Crowton agreed to join Lamb’s staff, although the official hiring didn’t come for another few weeks.
“He had some pretty big schools with some pretty big coffers trying to convince him to come to their place,” Lamb said. “So we waited, just to make sure we didn’t announce it and then have to pull back.”
Along with Lamb, SUU provost Bradley Cook and athletic director Ken Beazer helped convince Crowton that SUU was the right place.
“The proximity [to home] was big,” he said. “So were the people. They promote the game. They promote the program. They give it a chance, which was evident by the season they had last year. …
“They’ve all greeted me with excitement. I think they’re looking at me as someone with a lot of experience who might be able to help them improve.”
Lamb is a believer.
“There were many factors,” he said. “But one reason coach Crowton is here, I think, is the idea he can take a pretty good team — one that’s on the cusp — and help get us over the hump.”
Gary Crowton through the years
Southern Utah offensive coordinator Gary Crowton’s coaching timeline:
Season Team Position
1982 BYU Graduate assistant
1983 Snow College Defensive backs
1984-86 Snow College Offensive coordinator
1987 Western Illinois Offensive coordinator
1988-90 New Hampshire Offensive coordinator
1991-93 Boston College Quarterbacks
1994 Georgia Tech Co-offensive coordinator
1995 Louisiana Tech Offensive coordinator
1996-98 Louisiana Tech Head coach
1999-00 Chicago Bears Offensive coordinator
2001-04 BYU Head coach
2005-06 Oregon Offensive coordinator
2007-10 LSU Offensive coordinator
2011 Maryland Offensive coordinator
2012-13 Winnipeg (CFL) Offensive coordinator
2014 Southern Utah Offensive coordinator