Alan R. "Pete" Witbeck

Athlete, Coach &
Master of Athletic Administration

Alan R.
Alan R. "Pete" Witbeck

Brigham Young High School
Class of 1947

Alan R. "Pete" Witbeck was born on February 26, 1929 in Raymond, Alberta, Canada, a son of Hampton Witback and Angelina "Dot" O'Brien Witbeck. He attended primary and secondary schools in Raymond, Alberta.

Pete Witbeck came to Brigham Young High School as a 17-year-old Canadian student to complete a course in U.S. History and to meet other entrance requirements to BYU. He graduated from BYH in 1947.

In 1948 Witbeck enrolled at BYU as a long distance runner on a track scholarship. A talented basketball player, he began to participate in the LDS All-Church Basketball Tournament with a Provo ward when he was an 18-year-old freshman.

"It was a big deal," said Witbeck. "The media covered it heavily. It was really something just to get into it, and you got to meet people from everywhere."

The All-Church tournament, sometimes called "the brawl that begins with a prayer" was discontinued in 1971 when it became logistically impossible to organize due to rapid growth of the LDS Church.

Pete Witbeck earned his BS degree in Physical Education from BYU in 1952. He went on to complete an MS Degree in Physical Education in 1954, also at BYU.

Witbeck joined the BYU physical education faculty in 1954. Three years later, he became the university's first freshmen basketball coach, and over his six-year tenure, his teams went 62-9.

He worked during the administrations of five university presidents, beginning with Ernest L. Wilkinson, and served as the right hand man for five BYU athletic directors.

"I give all the credit to Stan Watts, who had the faith and trust in me, a young guy out of Canada, to start off my career," said Witbeck. This young native son of Raymond, Alberta was later inducted into that city's Hall of Fame.

"The greatest moment of my career was being part of that national championship team that won the NIT," Witbeck said. "We were seeded number one, and we swept through the tournament. Back then winning in Madison Square Garden really meant something."

In 1962, BYU basketball head coach Stan Watts elevated Witbeck to assistant head coach and gave him responsibility for game planning and coordinating the offense, in addition to his continued role in charge of recruiting. It was just four years later that the Cougars won the NIT National Basketball Championship. Witbeck was key in recruiting and guiding Croatian Kresimir Cosic, who became one of BYU's all time great basketball players.

In 1964, Witbeck won the Dale Rex Memorial trophy, awarded to the person who has contributed the most to amateur sports in Utah.

Pete Witbeck married Lorna "Kathy" Pickering on September 3, 1966. They have one son and three daughters: Von, Anne, Jill and Tori.

In addition to his role as coach, recruiter and NCAA compliance officer at BYU, Witbeck participated in scheduling for football and men's basketball, helping to bring such high profile programs as Miami, Penn State and Notre Dame to Provo.

Witbeck also served as the game manager for football and men's basketball, a crucial behind-the-scenes function that required arranging logistics for visiting teams and officials and handling whatever minor problems arose during contests. As game manager, he attended every BYU home football and men's basketball game from 1972 until he retired in 2001.

In 1972, when Stan Watts became BYU athletic director, he asked his assistant coach to join him in the administration. The amazing growth that followed is another of Witbeck's greatest satisfactions.

"At that time our basketball program was on the national level and we decided we needed to get football on the national scene, too," he said. "Those are the two visible revenue sports and you need them to be successful to have other great sports, which we do now.

"When you start winning as we did, that precipitates growth," said Witbeck, who served at BYU long enough to remember the heyday of the George Albert Smith Fieldhouse before the Marriott Center, and the travails of the hillside football stadium, later replaced by Lavell Edwards Stadium.

"Pete's seen it all when it comes to BYU athletics," said Val Hale, men's athletic director in 2001. "He was there for the NIT championship, on the sidelines for the Miracle Bowl, Danny Ainge's dash against Notre Dame, the football national championship and more. When he departs, we'll lose nearly 50 years of experience and a great lifetime Cougar."

"Pete was the ultimate detail guy," Hale said. "That's why he was so good at what he did. For years he and Glen Tuckett were running the show in athletics at BYU. Pete was a guy who if you gave him something to do, he'd get it done and get it done well."

Pete Witbeck pictured at LaVell Edwards Stadium
Witbeck pictured at LaVell Edwards Stadium

Witbeck was inducted into BYU's Hall of Fame for his contributions as assistant coach to Stan Watts on the BYU basketball team that won the NIT tournament, which was then recognized as college basketball's national championship.

The BYU Varsity Club named Pete Witbeck as its 2003 recipient of the Foundation of Excellence Award. During his 47 years at BYU, Pete served as senior associate athletic director and Cougar basketball assistant coach.

At the time of his retirement effective September 1, 2001, Witbeck was serving as the university NCAA compliance officer, working to ensure that the BYU athletic program observed the numerous rules legislated by the governing body of collegiate athletics, and working as the university's point man with the association.

Thanks to his vigilance and efforts to educate coaches and student athletes, BYU is one of the nation's few universities that never committed a major NCAA violation.

Fred Skousen, vice-president for Advancement at Brigham Young University said, "Pete has been a right-hand man for BYU athletic directors over nearly a half century. He's made countless admirable contributions to the progress of the BYU athletic program from a little-known Rocky Mountain school to a national power that won conference titles in 16 of 19 Mountain West sports in which BYU competed."

An avid jogger for 40 years, Witbeck also won 12 consecutive BYU intramural racquetball titles and co-authored a racquetball textbook which went through many editions. His love of running continued throughout his life -- he averaged six miles most days.

In retirement he continued his award-winning gardening and spent more time with his many grandchildren and his wife Kathy, who retired after a 40-year career in education.

Pete Witbeck was known as a wonderful husband, father, and a loyal friend. He was a master storyteller, reciting many entertaining stories of his experiences and travels. He had a delightful sense of humor and loved to hear and tell a joke.

He was known particularly for his integrity, honesty, exactness and loyalty. He provided a wonderful example to his family, grandchildren, and to everyone with whom he came in contact.

Pete is survived by his wife, Kathy, of Provo; son, Von (Kerrie) Witbeck and daughter, Anne Witbeck (Brandon) Jackson, both of Las Vegas, Nevada; daughter, Jill Witbeck Young of Herriman, Utah; and daughter, Tori Witbeck Mobley, of Houston, Texas. He and Kathy currently have 11 grandchildren. Pete is also survived by a brother, Tom Witbeck, of Raymond, Alberta, Canada. Pete's parents and a sister, Nadine Witbeck Price, preceded him in death.

Following his retirement, Pete continued to attend games in the BYU stadiums that his early efforts had helped build, although sitting in the stands, he admitted, was a strange feeling.

"I've never had that luxury of being just a fan," said Witbeck, who had game responsibilities at every BYU contest he attended. "I don't know if I'll be able to stand it when people start criticizing the coach. But I know one thing, my blood will always run blue."

Alan R. “Pete” Witbeck died on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 in Provo.

Alan R.
Alan R. "Pete" Witbeck

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