BYU Football’s Special Sauce
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is centered around the history of BYU football. The inspiration is Episode 1 of “A Century of Cougar Football” podcast hosted by KSL Sports BYU Insider Mitch Harper, which examines the program’s history dating back to the first season in 1922. Follow A Century of Cougar Football on all podcasting platforms or KSLsports.com.
SALT LAKE CITY – What makes BYU football special?
A faith-based institution nestled along the Wasatch Front shouldn’t have a program that is one of the winningest college football teams over the last 50 years. How does it happen?
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe has said that the secret sauce to BYU teams is the student-athletes. They are the ones, after all, that have to play the games.
But what about the people who don’t play the games? You know, the fans.
Growing up as a shy, timid kid in the 90s, I was one of those fans.
I don’t insert myself into stories, considering I cover the Cougars professionally daily here at KSL Sports and KSL NewsRadio. But growing up, I always put myself into a conversation about BYU football if I could. It was the one thing that brought me out of my shell.
First BYU football game I attended
On September 9, 1995, as a seven-year-old kid from West Valley City, Utah, I had the chance to attend my first BYU football game with my dad, Lane.
It was against Pac-10 powerhouse UCLA. I remember everything about that day — the excitement of being old enough to go to a game with my dad, nestling into the south endzone bleacher in Portal WW, to wearing my Tazmanian Devil t-shirt that had Taz in a BYU football uniform.
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That game, by all accounts, was a non-descript outing for BYU. But it didn’t matter to me. I was hooked. QB Steve Sarkisian and LB Shay Muirbrook became my favorite players. That day at Cougar Stadium with 60,000 other fans was a formative experience in my life.
From that moment, I was determined to one day have a job covering BYU football. It became part of my identity. But maybe the most important piece of all, it brought me close to my dad.
My dad was never one of those parents that forced me to like BYU. Now, I will say I was exposed to BYU sports at a young age. Like a young age. At the age of two, to be exact, when I received “My First Sony Walkman,” my dad played Johnny Biscuit’s “Tysman Rap” for me.
So when I had the chance to go with my dad to that UCLA game in 1995, I was pumped. I lived for game days or road trips to Pac-10 venues with my dad. But even simpler times, where he would bring home an H.B. Arnett Cougar Sportsline, which gave us the latest scoop on BYU’s recruiting targets. Or we would go to the public library to see pictures of BYU’s crazy new “bib uniforms.”
Win or lose, rain or shine, my dad and I had a special bond through BYU football. And to this day, even as I’ve gotten older and maybe our views on topics are entirely different, we can still chat for hours about the Cougs.
That’s one of the reasons I created this “A Century of Cougar Football” podcast. The secret sauce to the greatness of BYU football is the passion that it brings out in people.
BYU football brings out the passion
You won’t need to go through many interviews to hear BYU head coach Kalani Sitake speak about his love for BYU when he was growing up. The former BYU fullback and now seventh-year head coach always refers to himself as a “fan” of BYU football. But then his love went to another level after he met the legendary LaVell Edwards. After that, Sitake never looked back on bleeding blue.
Whether it’s players, coaches, or fans, BYU football gives people a positive outlet. Sometimes that can be debated, especially if the team isn’t playing well, but more times than not, the bonds that come through BYU lining up on the gridiron last a lifetime for people.
I’m seeing that now with my kids — Max, Lincoln, and Ruby.
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I’ll admit I didn’t expose my kids much to BYU when they were in the crib, as I experienced in my early years. I wanted my three kids to carve out their paths and passions. But there’s some magnetic pull about BYU football.
While I work the press box on a game day, my dad is kind enough to give my kids a chance to see the Cougars in action as he once did for me.
Sometimes I’ll look through my binoculars while I sit in my press box seat that usually rests above the 1985 Citrus Bowl banner at LES, and I’ll look to the south endzone and see my kids cheering their little hearts out.
It’s simple. But it sure is special.
“A Century Of Cougar Football” is a KSL Podcast. Follow the show on all podcasting platforms and here on KSLsports.com. New episodes are released every Friday until November 11, 2022.
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 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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