As a high school athlete from the California Bay area in 1971, Gary Sheide had never heard of BYU before and that was essentially the reason he told Coach LaVell Edwards he wasn't interested in becoming a Cougar. Instead, he enrolled at Diablo Junior College to play baseball and was talked into playing football as well. Despite a season ending injury as a sophomore, LaVell was still interested and met with Sheide and his mom, who quickly became enamored by the coach. Sheide took a visit to Provo and was impressed with what he saw, beautiful girls, mountains, and fishing. Still, he had a concern, he wanted to throw the ball but in 1972 BYU had Fleet Pete Van Valkenburg, the nations leading rusher. LaVell promised they would throw the ball more.
In 1973 Dewey "the Swamp Rat" Warren, of Tennessee joined the Cougars as the quarterbacks coach and elevated Sheide's game. The Cougars started throwing the ball and they started winning more games. Sheide finished the season with 2,350 yards passing and 22 touchdowns. 1974 got off to a rough 0-3-1 start and after tying Colorado State, Larry Carr and Brad Oates got after the team in the locker room. Whatever they said turned the season around. BYU then won seven straight. Sheide's favorite game as a Cougar that season was beating nationally ranked Arizona State; he threw five touchdowns and was named the ABC Player of the Week. Then, the Cougars made their first bowl game appearance in the 1974 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State. Despite losing 6-16, making a post-season appearance was a great sign that BYU was headed in the right direction. Sheide, as the nations leading passer, won the Sammy Baugh trophy and was later drafted by the Cincinatti Bengals in the third round of the NFL Draft.