Mark Pope Finds Happiness From BYU Fans’ Joy For Top 25 Ranking
PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball’s status as a Top 25 team is new ground for a program that hasn’t experienced this level of recognition since Jimmer Fredette was leading the Cougars to the Sweet 16.
Has this new No. 23 next to BYU’s name impacted the way head coach Mark Pope handles his work every day?
“I don’t know. I’m not sure. I do know how I feel and how I feel is that I’m happy for BYU fans right now. I think that’s what I feel happy about right now,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “My job hasn’t changed at all. We can keep getting better every day and we can keep moving towards the goals we have, or we can not. The ranking doesn’t really affect that.
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“But I do know that it means something. It means something to the people. We actually care. We care about our fans, we care about this community, and we care about this school and how it’s represented. For all those reasons, it’s really fun and it’s really rewarding and it’s really great. But in terms of in the trenches for us, we have the same job.”
Since BYU joined the West Coast Conference in 2011, BYU’s loyal following of fans hasn’t experienced a season where the Cougars were ranked in the Top 25 rankings. Now they’ve got the team they’ve been clamoring for, and they’ve responded in ticket sales.
Only a few thousand tickets remain for Thursday night’s game against Santa Clara and Saturday’s showdown against No. 2 Gonzaga is already sold out.
“I think [the atmosphere] will be great,” said Pope. “I’m really grateful that people have been able to see these guys. You get to know Zac Seljaas and it’s really hard to not cheer for him. You get to know TJ Haws and you chronicle his story and it’s hard to not cheer for him. Jake Toolson, how do you not cheer for Jake and Yoeli Childs? You go down the list and that’s the thing that makes me happy is that people have got to witness these guys try and grow and figure things out and serve each other and sacrifice for each other through the end of the season. It’s actually really fun to watch.
“It’s fun to kind of know their stories. That’s what makes the game fun is when you really know the players. I think people have gotten to know our guys and I think people are also excited that these guys have put a good product on the floor. When you come to a game, you see them put their heart and soul on the floor, win or lose. They’re putting everything on the floor and I think you leave the gym inspired.”
Now they BYU will have two more opportunities at the Marriott Center to inspire their fans and also show the Top 25 ranking is not just a one-week cameo as they look to move up among College Basketball’s elite this season.
No. 23 BYU vs. Santa Clara
Tip-Off: 7 p.m. (MST)
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM, 1160 AM
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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