TBT: A Tradition Unlike Any Other


A general view of a game during a TV timeout during the third quarter between Washington State Cougars and Brigham Young Cougars at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

When BYU fans discuss the best Cougar football teams of all time, the same teams typically come up.  1983 with Steve Young as the quarterback saw the Cougars lose just one game.  In 1984, Robbie Bosco led BYU to its National Championship.  Ty Detmer led BYU past the top ranked U on the way to a Heisman in 1990.  Steve Sarkisian lassoed in a top five ranking for the Cougs in 1996.  In 2001, Brandon Doman and Luke Staley led a potent offensive team to a 12-0 start.  2006 was when John Beck put the modern era Cougars back on the national college football scene.  Max Hall culminated a career as BYU’s all time wins leader in 2009.  Most fans will list these teams in various orders as the top squads to play in Provo.  BYU’s football tradition started in 1961, when Eldon Fortie was named the school’s first All-American.  That’s a lot of history.

While the players, coaches, awards, and wins are all an important part of BYU’s unique tradition, each fan has his or her own BYU tradition.  Each of us has a history with BYU sports.  We have a reason that we cheer for BYU.

My personal BYU tradition started at birth.  My dad was a big fan and it was instilled in me from the beginning.  I have pictures of me as a newborn wearing BYU gear.  I used to tell people I wanted to be Ty Detmer when I grew up.  I would wear my BYU uniform outside in the cold and pretend I was Ethan Pochman (the helmet had a kicker’s facemask).  People often wonder why I cheer for BYU even though I went college at Weber State and the answer for me is simple: It’s how I was raised.

I am fortunate that my dad shares my passion for BYU sports.  My dad’s love for BYU was instilled in him by his mom.  His dad did not care much for the Cougs, but my grandma had a love for the team that has now been passed down through generations.  My dad’s childhood memories include him asking for opposing players’ chinstraps after games and playing where the end zone bleachers now stand.  He eventually became a student at BYU, but he was raised in fandom as well.

Throughout the years, my dad and I have established our own BYU tradition.  We have season tickets for the home games and we travel to one away game each season.  We have been able to travel to great college venues across the country together.  We have gone to the Coliseum at USC, Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Falcon Stadium for Air Force, Sam Boyd Stadium for UNLV and three Las Vegas Bowls.  We watched BYU beat Oklahoma in Cowboys Stadium.  I got the worst sunburn of my life watching BYU take on Florida State in Doak Campbell Stadium.  We tailgated in The Grove then watched Kyle Van Noy carry the Cougars to victory against Ole Miss.  We have a picture in front of Touchdown Jesus at Notre Dame.  We felt the stadium shake last year at Camp Randall while the Wisconsin fans “jump(ed) around.”  We are a little more than a month away from traveling to Hartford to watch BYU play at UConn.

There are few places I’d rather be than LaVell Edwards Stadium in the fall.  I have so many happy memories in Cougar Stadium/LaVell Edwards Stadium.  The first game I remember attending was in 1996 when BYU beat Texas A&M.  I have also seen BYU beat Notre Dame, Washington, Texas, and many conference foes.  My BYU history unfortunately also includes staying till the end while the Cougars were destroyed by Colorado State and Boise State in 2003, watching BYU’s scoring streak come to a close against the Utes in 2003, and watching the terrible 54-10 debacle in 2011 until the final snap.

While we did not have season tickets until the 2002 season, my dad and I had attended every home game possible.  We would buy tickets from scalpers or get them from friends who couldn’t make use of them.  Since the 2002 season, my dad or I (usually both of us) have sat in our seats on the west sideline during every home game with the exception of one or two of them while I was on a mission.

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For BYU fans, remembering the 2001 football season brings up mixed feelings.  It was the beginning of the Gary Crowton era, which most have tried to forget.  That season saw BYU have a high octane offense, terrible defense, and a couple of lopsided losses at the end of the season.  That was the last season we didn’t have season tickets.  Unfortunately, the first years my dad and I had BYU football season tickets were 2002-2004, the only losing seasons BYU has had since LaVell Edwards’ first season as head coach.

The decision to buy season tickets came on November 17, 2001.  BYU was 10-0 and ranked #8 in the polls and the University of Utah came to Provo with a 7-2 record.  For the first time that I could ever remember, my older sister wanted to join my dad and me at the game.  When we got to the stadium, the scalpers were there, but they were not offering three seats together.  My dad considered buying four and selling one, but the ticket prices were astronomical because of BYU’s high ranking, unbeaten status, and opponent.

After unsuccessfully searching for tickets, we decided we would not be able to get in that day.  We lived an hour and a half away in North Ogden, so there was no way for us to get home in time to watch the game on TV.  We decided we would go to my grandma’s to watch the game with her.

Because of my grandma’s battle with Alzheimer’s, she was in an assisted living home in Orem.  Luckily, she had cable in her room and would always welcome our company, even if she had forgotten who we were.  We went to her place and got there shortly after the game started.  The game was an intense game throughout and, as time wound down in the fourth quarter, it looked like BYU would lose.

We all know how that game ended.  Luke Staley’s two touchdowns in three minutes, including his 30 yard dash up the east sideline for a score put the Cougars in the lead.  Jernaro Gilford would then seal the deal with an interception moments later.  After Luke’s first touchdown, the celebration between myself, my sister, my dad, and his mom was so loud that we scared the housekeeper, Maria.  After Jernaro’s interception, I remember hugging Maria and encouraging her to yell “Go Cougars!” in her broken English.  To this day, that memory is one of my fondest and I would not trade it for anything, including watching the game from inside the stadium.

While I suspect most who read this don’t really care about my celebration with my grandma and her maid, I also believe that many will have similar stories of great memories involving BYU football and family.  Many who have a love for BYU sports have that love because their parents did.  They were raised going to BYU games, they have heard stories from their parents, and they have stories of their own.  BYU’s tradition is built upon generations of success and special moments like the ones that happened both on the field at LES that day and up the street in my grandma’s room.

There are schools that have won BCS games or have stumbled upon recent success.  There are schools that have been a flash in the pan and have gotten national attention because of it.  With BYU, it has been sustained and continued success.  BYU’s head coaching job is a destination, not a stop on the path to a bigger opportunity.  The banners on the press box in LES, the trophies in Legacy Hall, and the numerous All-Americans who have suited up in Provo have built the program into what it is.

Much like my dad has told me many stories of the memories he had with his mom watching BYU sports growing up, one day I will have a son whom I will name Beck (yes, like John) and I will tell him my stories.  Like the time that I saw Coleby Clawson sack Sam Bradford with my dad in a brand new stadium.  I’ll reminisce about the time that I got threatened with a throat slash when BYU was driving late at USC in 2003.  These things are also what has built, and will continue to build, BYU into what it is.

Often, BYU fans live in the past and use the 1984 National Championship to win any college football discussion they are having.  While I feel that may be a little dated now that it is 30 years later, we shouldn’t shy from tradition.  We are fans because of that tradition.  We have been through ups and downs throughout the program’s history.  We have seen more wins than losses.  We have seen more good times than bad.  We should be proud of our team.  We should be proud of our tradition.  We should be proud that we are BYU.

Why are you a BYU fan?  What are some of your traditions?  Share them by leaving  a comment below or tweeting us @Lawlessrepublic.