Hall of Famer, former BYU coach McGown passes away at 79

Hall of Fame coach Carl McGown who led BYU to two national championships passed away on Friday afternoon.

McGown, 79, took over the BYU men’s volleyball program when it was still a club sport and transformed it into NCAA Division I program that annually contended for the national championship.

Within a decade of becoming the head coach in 1990, McGown led the Cougars to their first national championship in program history. BYU under McGown in 1999 won a school-record 30 matches, including a sweep against Long Beach State in the NCAA Tournament finals.

McGown that season won the first of his two AVCA National Coach of the Year awards. He also won that national award again in 2001 following BYU winning its second national championship in a three-year span.

The two national titles makes McGown in of eight head coaches in college men’s volleyball history to win multiple Division I-II NCAA championship.


“Carl was a coaching icon in the volleyball community and was recognized worldwide as one of the very best teachers, strategist and innovators the sport has ever known,” BYU athletics director Tom Holmoe said in a statement. “He guided our fledgling men’s program from a club team to national prominence in the NCAA. Along the way he had a profound impact on the lives of many student-athletes. Our thoughts and prayers are with Susan and the McGown family.” 

McGown ended his 13-year head coaching tenure at BYU in 2002 with a 205-1231 career record. The Cougars under McGown were ranked in the top 10 of a season’s final national coaches poll nine times and had 17 All-American selections.

Along with his contributions on the sidelines, McGown’s program led the nation in home attendance in three seasons during the 1990s. BYU also set a NCAA single-match record with 14,156 people in attendance for its four-game home victory against Hawai’i in 1999.

“Carl McGown is one of the great volleyball minds in the history of the sport,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said in a statement. “His ability to analyze the game and his team’s training from a unique perspective was why coaches from around the world knocked on his door. Carl loved volleyball and he loved learning. Playing for Carl was a dream come true. He pushed us and coached us as only Carl could. He loved each one of his players through the good and bad times. The greatest life lessons I learned were with Carl away from the court. He had that kind of impact on everyone who played for him.”

Before coaching at BYU, McGown served as the head coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team from 1973-76. He also was on the U.S. Men’s National Team coaching staff for every Olympics from 1984 to 2008 and helped guide the United States to three gold medals.

McGown also founded the Gold Medal Squared in 1985. The organization that runs volleyball camps and clinics in the last 30 years has contributed to more than 450 high school coaches winning state championships.

Among the numerous honors for McGown includes being inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame in 2010 and the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011. In addition, McGown was the 2000 recipient of the Tom Haine Memorial Award, which USA Volleyball annually present to an all-time great indoor volleyball player or contributor.

McGown, a BYU graduate in 1963, earned his doctorate from the University of Oregon before joining the BYU faculty in 1972. As an academic scholar, he wrote and published several books about volleyball such as “Science of Coaching Volleyball” and “Coaching Volleyball: Building a Winning Team.”

Following his retirement from college coaching, McGown returned to the BYU sidelines as a volunteer assistant coach from 2012-15 under his son and former BYU head coach Chris McGown. BYU in those four seasons made two NCAA Tournament appearances.

McGown is survived by his wife, two sons and five grandchildren.