What Will Be the Legacy of BYU Quarterback Max Hall?

Scott LambsonContributor IIIDecember 13, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Max Hall #15 of the Brigham Young Cougars drops back to pass against the Oklahoma Sooners at Cowboys Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When Max Hall accepted his scholarship to play quarterback at Brigham Young University, it came with a price.


I'm not talking about the kind of scrutiny that exists within every major college football program.

No, I'm talking about BYU, the school that invented the pass and earned the nickname "Quarterback U."

The storied tradition at QB in Provo is downright astounding.

All-Americans such as Gifford Nielson, Marc Wilson, Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Robbie Bosco, and Heisman winner Ty Detmer set the standard of excellence so high, that the QBs who followed almost had no chance.

And who has followed since?

Just the likes of Steve Sarkisian, Brandon Doman, John Beck, and Max Hall, all of whom have thrown for at least 3,500 yards at least once.

But, for some odd reason, Max Hall has taken more criticism than Sarkisian, Doman, and Beck combined.

Statistically speaking, Max Hall's numbers are impressive.

He's thrown for over 11,000 yards in his career, set the record for most touchdown passes in a game with seven against UCLA a year ago, and most impressive, he became the all-time wins leader at BYU with 31 career victories, with one more game to go.

So, why has it been so hard for Max Hall to garner the same respect that former QBs like Sarkisian, Doman, and Beck received?

The answer is not clear-cut, but I do have my theory, and my theory is the Utah Utes.

The Utah Utes, you say? That's right, the Utah Utes.

The one obstacle that Sarkisian, Doman, Beck, and Hall have faced during their careers that no other BYU quarterback had to endure was the emergence of the University of Utah football program.

It wasn't until the mid 1990s that BYU's fiercest rival from Salt Lake was even able to compete with them. In fact from 1972 until 1992, BYU went 18-2 against their supposed rivals.

But during the Ron Mcbride coaching era at Utah, the Utes began to compete year in and year out. Since 1993, Utah actually owns a 10-7 advantage over BYU.

So, why is this important?

Since Utah's re-emergence, the stakes have been even higher, as more pressure has been put on the BYU quarterback.

In fact, if you don't beat Utah, it's as if you never existed at all.

Ever heard of John Walsh? Exactly.

Because not only did beating Utah give you state bragging rights, in most years it meant winning the conference championship, as well.

So, lets take a look at these QBs.

Interestingly enough, Steve Sarkisian only beat the Utes once, a 1996 win in Salt Lake City, but it's remembered with great fondness, as it snapped a three-game BYU losing streak to Utah.

Not only did Sark beat Utah, he led BYU to the WAC championship, and BYU's first-ever appearance in a major bowl game, the Cotton Bowl.

In the Cotton Bowl, BYU beat Kansas State on New Year's Day, and for that one memorable season, Sarkisian would forever be remembered as one of the great BYU quarterbacks.

Brandon Doman has the distinction of not only beating the Utes twice, but he led one of the greatest come-from-behind victories in BYU history.

In what would be LaVell Edwards' last game coaching BYU, Brandon Doman performed a miracle for the ages.

With the Cougars trailing rival Utah, and under a minute to go, Doman converted on a 4th-and-18 pass from his own five-yard line.

A few plays later, Doman dove into the end zone, capping a story book ending in which the BYU players carried Edwards off their rival's field a winner.

The very next season, not only did Doman beat Utah again, but he led BYU to a perfect conference record and championship.

For his championship season, and even more for his heroics in LaVell's last game, Doman would be remembered as a BYU great.

John Beck is an interesting case, because Beck lost to the Utes three times.

He was only the second true freshman to start at QB in BYU history.

Statistically speaking, Beck was as good as any BYU quarterback ever, but it wasn't until he beat the Utes as a senior in 2006 that he cemented his place in BYU lore.

It wasn't so much that he won the game, as much as the way it happened.

Having lost his first three meetings with the Utes, and overall BYU had lost four in a row, Beck found a wide open Johnny Harline on the last play of the game to give the Cougs the improbable victory.

Once again, not only did Beck finally beat the Utes, BYU won the conference title outright, and Beck secured his place in the hearts of BYU fans.

Which brings us back to Max Hall.

Hall has played three seasons at BYU, and during those three seasons, not only did he win a conference title, but he beat the Utes twice!

So, what gives?

Once again, the culprit is the Utah Utes, and you might as well throw in the TCU Horned Frogs while we're at it.

During Hall's tenure, the conference that BYU plays in has been better than ever before.

So, while Hall has been churning out more victories than any BYU QB in history, it has been largely overshadowed by the BCS seasons of Utah, when he was a junior, and TCU, when he was a senior.

Also, it is worthwhile to note that BYU fans seem to remember a quarterback for how they went out rather than how they came in.

So, while Hall did win a conference title, he won it as a sophomore. Sarkisian, Doman, and Beck had the luxury to do it as seniors, so they were remembered for leaving on top.

So, have the criticisms of Hall been justified? Absolutely not.

It's just that Hall played out his career when the conference was at its highest level ever.

In fact, the only time he lost to Utah, it could be argued that Utah was the best team in the country, and although he lost to TCU twice, it could be argued that TCU was one of the best teams in the country both times.

What other BYU quarterback faced teams of that caliber in their own conference?

The answer is zero.

It wasn't as if Max Hall underachieved in comparison to his predecessors, he very well might have overachieved.

Max Hall not only won as many conference titles as Sark, Doman, and Beck, he also beat Utah twice, and in dramatic fashion.

Unfortunately for Hall, many fans will remember him for his "I hate everything about Utah" comments after he beat the Utes in OT this season.

But, in Hall's defense, what other BYU QB had to put up with the scrutiny and abuse he took when losing to the Utes last season, who quite arguably were the best team in America?

See, the Utes raised the bar so high that BYU fans and their expectations rose to levels never before seen. Max Hall took the brunt of those expectations for three full seasons.

So, after beating the Utes who a season ago stuck it to him, and told him about it, he simply vented.

What gets overlooked in his now famous rant, was that he called out BYU fans as well. He had some strong words for the BYU "unfaithful" who he said, hid behind fake Internet names and called him out for three years.

But in all reality, what were those expectations for Max Hall?

They were to go undefeated, to be perfect, to go to a BCS bowl game.

Why were Hall's expectations so much higher than the expectations for Sarkisian, Doman, and Beck?

That answer is simple. Because BYU's rival Utah went undefeated, perfect, and to a BCS bowl game.

So, when it's all said and done, is it fair to scrutinize Max Hall more so than those who came before him, simply because he played against better competition?

Absolutely not.

I say look at what he actually did against that better competition. He went 2-1 against Utah. What more could BYU fans have asked for?

He wasn't in the same boat as say Steve Young and Ty Detmer, but Max Hall was definitely equal to, or even better than Sarkisian, Doman, and Beck.

Hall should forever be remembered in that same class, no doubt about it.

In fact, not only did he beat Utah in the Holy War two out of three times, he did it when Utah was at their best.

And even better for true BYU fans, Max Hall told them about it on his way out the door!


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