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Mark Pope Compares Atmosphere At BYU Games To Pac-12 Venues

Nov 1, 2023, 10:21 PM

Mark Pope, BYU Basketball, Marriott Center...

BYU basketball head coach Mark Pope made a comparison to Pac-12 atmospheres and the Marriott Center. (Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)

(Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball coach Mark Pope has always been quick to recognize the passion of BYU fans.

Pope knows a passionate fanbase when he sees one. He played at Kentucky during his playing career. But the fifth-year head coach has always found BYU unique because they show up to everything.

On Wednesday night, BYU defeated LIFE Pacific in an exhibition game, 83-55. It was one final tune-up before the regular season tips off.

BYU basketball had more than 13,000 fans show up for an exhibition

BYU had an eye-popping attendance of 13,733 for the exhibition tilt. The student section was filled close to the top.

It’s a far cry from the 90s when BYU basketball patiently waited for fans to show up until January after football season and the holidays were over. BYU fans were in midseason form for a game that didn’t count in the standings.

“I’m telling you what, man, I feel bad for everybody that doesn’t get a chance to come play at BYU,” said Mark Pope.

Pope continued by celebrating the crowd for an exhibition game by comparing it to the Pac-12 Conference, which is entering its final season in their current form.

“You guys know I exaggerate, but this might not be much of an exaggeration. For example, the defunct Pac-12. This is probably more fans and a better gym environment than most of the schools in the old Pac-12 had in a regular season game. We’re just blessed and we’ll never take that for granted.”

Subtle message before Signing Day?

The timing of Mark Pope’s message is interesting as it happens before Signing Day next week. BYU is waiting on decisions from a pair of prospects considering BYU and Pac-12 schools in Jaxon Johnson from Alta and Brooks Bahr from Keller, Texas.

Maybe it’s one final pitch before those two put their commitments in ink next week.

Last season, BYU finished 16th in per-game attendance, averaging 13,855 fans at the Marriott Center during a 19-win campaign in the WCC.

BYU sold out its season ticket allotment for its first season in the Big 12 Conference so that number could increase this winter.

“Where everywhere else, attendance is going down and people are struggling and here it just keeps going up and up. At the heart of it is our students and I mean, they bless us. It is incredible that we get to walk into this gym. You walk in here and the student section is almost to the rafters. You know, for this game? We’re really blessed. So Cougar Nation is real.”

Mark Pope lays out what BYU fans can expect this season

BYU fans will show up in strong numbers this year. But will Mark Pope’s squad give them much to cheer about in the nation’s toughest conference?

“The one thing I know about this team is we are going to fight. This floor is going to be bloody and Cougar Nation is going to walk out of here being proud of these guys at what they do this season. I can’t wait for us to all do it together, it’s going to be amazing.”

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 Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Mark Pope Compares Atmosphere At BYU Games To Pac-12 Venues