Loyal Cougars

Improving the gameday atmosphere at BYU

After many travels and a sit-down with Tom Holmoe, the Cougar Roadie has some ideas for improving BYU’s gameday atmosphere.

Over the last six years as I’ve traveled from stadium to stadium across the country, I’ve grown increasingly jealous of the gameday traditions and atmospheres at opposing campuses. In fact at some schools like Florida State and Notre Dame, they have so many activities for fans and their team that “gameday” starts on Friday night. If you traveled with BYU to either of those games, you know what I’m talking about.

Why can’t BYU do more to enhance the experience for both Cougar fans and visitors alike? There are so many events I’ve seen that aren’t hard to do, it just takes a little organization and elbow grease. Perhaps it’s because Cougar fans don’t know what they’re missing? Maybe they think we already have a great thing? Maybe I’m just high maintenance and like to be entertained? Whatever it is, I think this is an area that can be greatly improved.

Over the summer, I posed the gameday atmosphere question on Twitter and was surprised at some of the great ideas that were presented. Here’s a few of my own, along with some that were brainstormed on Twitter, on the golf course and via text message with fellow BYU fans, and discussed in a meeting I was able to have with Tom Holmoe.

1. Team Walk
I list this first because it’s actually going to happen this season! Look for another post tomorrow dedicated strictly to this event.

2. Re-vamped Friday Night Firesides
Have you ever been to a team fireside in Utah County? Probably not. They’ve happened for years but many fans don’t go because the chances of getting a seat in a small chapel in Payson or Alpine aren’t very good. I’m not going to take the time to get ready, drive from SLC to whatever chapel it’s at, only to not get a seat and have to head home.

Why are home game firesides not held at the Marriott Center? It’s central. It’s easy to find. It’s got plenty of parking space. It’s got enough seating for everyone. It just makes too much sense. If firesides were held on campus, I believe they’d get thousands to attend, including many visitors who are making their first trip to Provo.

BYU prides itself on standing for something bigger than football, but we rarely get a chance to show our guests that when they visit. Why don’t we take advantage of one of our greatest missionary tools and not just tell visiting fans about the LDS church, let’s let them feel it for themselves on Friday night. I believe if done right, many of those fans will go home and talk more about their fireside experience on Friday night in the MC more than the game itself (especially when we send em home with a loss!).

2a. Friday night Pep Rally
I understand that firesides may not be for everyone. In that case we can mix in pep rallies. Notre Dame does an amazing job of this the night before each home game. They pack the basketball arena every week for a 1-hour program. The band plays, the cheerleaders perform, coaches and players speak and they usually have a distinguished alum each week as a keynote address. It’s a casual event, lots of cheering, lots of fun and I think would be a great change of pace in Provo.

Now 2 and 2A are mentioned together because both would take place in the Marriott Center and obviously we can’t do both for each game. Maybe we alternate each week? Maybe we do a majority of one and just mix in a couple of the other? It’s up for discussion how the schedule is made.

The biggest key I believe to both of these events is the speaker. BYU has a strong enough base of alumni and former players that I think we should be scheduling some big names for these events. We seem to bring them in for lots of random football events, so why not let the fans enjoy that as well.

I’m pretty sure if given 6-8 months notice, all would be happy to speak. I’m talking Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Jim McMahon, Ziggy Ansah, Danny Ainge, etc. No offense to some of our current guys, but hearing a random player give a 8-10 minute talk just doesn’t have the same effect as hearing Steve Young talk about being an active LDS member while juggling the demands of the NFL, or Ziggy talking about his recent transition from Provo to life as a rookie in the league. I think it would be a huge hit.

3. Cougartown Getdown
This is completely stolen from the great downtown street party that Florida State hosts before every game in Tallahassee. For BYU’s version, we can block off Center Street or Canyon Road in front of LES. Multiple local vendors can set up food stands, arts and crafts for kids, and BYU memorabilia booths. Local bands can perform on a central stage, which also serves as the podium each hour as Bronco, Tom Holmoe, Taysom Hill or KVN take the stage for quick 5-minute speeches throughout the evening.

The band can play, the cheerleaders can perform, Cosmo can work the crowd, etc. At FSU, they even had a small fireworks show at 10:00. It was an awesome atmosphere that I think BYU fans and students would enjoy. It also would be a benefit to local businesses and vendors.

4. Tailgating
Our friends at Cougar Center have done a great job getting this movement up and running, but it’s time for Cougar Nation to take it to a new level. What started as a few dudes setup in the Indoor Practice Facility parking lot has now grown to multiple parking lots and over 20 RV’s each week. But it can’t stop there, this is only the beginning. When I travel to road games each season, I’m quite envious each time I arrive at a stadium and see HUNDREDS of RV’s and THOUSANDS of fans tailgating. It is the natural atmosphere for football games and something of which I’m jealous.

When I met with Mr. Holmoe a few weeks ago, he brought up tailgating and the current difficulties and successes. He realizes BYU fans are making more of an effort to show up and participate, however he also spoke of some of the challenges. BYU realizes that many fans are clamoring to get all tailgating centralized in the Marriott Center parking lot, however the physical demand isn’t there, YET.

If more than 100 fans showed up in the RV lot, it will force BYU to provide a larger space, but currently the off-site lot has proved sufficient. Many are vocal about wanting it moved, but in this case, actions speak louder than words. In other words, lets get from the 100-200 range and into the 500 range. When that happens, larger accommodations will be provided. Until then, parking space on campus is very limited and must be used for that.

I know that in time tailgating will truly become a BYU gameday tradition, but it’s going to take time. For now, all we can do is continue building and bringing more and more into the fold.

The longterm hope is that fans can create a large enough demand that the Marriott Center lot is opened up fully to all fans, RVs and Loyal Cougars everywhere who want to come together on gameday. The team walk can originate at the Marriott Center and Bronco can lead the team straight through the heart of the tailgate en route to LaVell Edwards Stadium. I don’t think it’s too far fetched to make that happen in the next five years, but we have to prove as fans that we’ll support it. So hopefully each of you will make it out to a tailgate in the RV lot this season.

5. Show up EARLY
I’m not gonna lie, one of my biggest pet peeves as a BYU fan is seeing quite a few empty seats inside LES at kickoff. Are you kidding me people? We only get 6-7 home games each year, these are cherished occasions! So each fall when that time comes, why are people still showing up in the middle of the 1st quarter? For Saturday games there is no excuse for this, get there on time! No, get there EARLY.

Many of you are already thinking to yourself that traffic and parking are ridiculous on game day and there’s nothing you can do about that. I’ll let you in on a cool little secret: 2-3 hours before kickoff, there’s NO traffic on I-15 or in Provo. Showing up early will solve these problems for you and let you enjoy the day at LES.

6. Viewing parties for away games
As I attend most games outside of Provo, I’ve never had an issue watching an away game. However I’ve heard from MANY of you that have had problems. Maybe you don’t have cable, or a game is on a station you don’t have (ESPNU)? Whatever the reason, sometimes fans can’t watch a game.

Currently, BYU hosts a small group of fans in the BYU Broadcast studios to watch the game and even have light refreshments. But why limit this to 40-50 fans? Why not open up the Marriott Center or even show the games on our shiny new video boards at LES?

How about a blowup screen could be set up East of the conference center, or on the intramural fields, or North of the track stadium. I bet a few thousand students and local fans would love an excuse to get together and cheer on the Cougs when they’re away. Bring in some food vendors, let fans bring blankets and lawn chairs and make it a party!

7. Caffeine
Fully-loaded Dr. Pepper available in the stadium. Just kidding. But only kinda.


These are just a few of the many great ideas that I believe can and should be a part of the fan experience at BYU each football weekend in the Fall.

Do you have more ideas that you’d like to see? Leave your comments below and lets hear ’em. Email me your thoughts if you’d like. I often speak with members of the sports marketing team and athletic administrators, and they’d love to hear your feedback. I’ll be sure to pass your comments along.

As for now, let’s do our part September 7th to show the Longhorns what BYU Football is all about. Be great hosts. Be polite to every burnt orange-clad fan you see. Wear BLUE. Show up early. Make it a full day event. In other words… be Loyal Cougars!


  1. Dotty

    September 3, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Love, love, and love the ideas — especially the Pep Rally in Marriott Center on Friday nights before the games!

    • Brett Hein

      September 3, 2013 at 12:41 pm

      Me too. That would be awesome.

    • B Dub

      September 4, 2013 at 2:14 pm

      Presten, I wanted to email you some thoughts but can’t find your email address. What is it? Thanks

  2. Brett Hein

    September 3, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    I don’t want to make this post all about caffeine, because Presten has some awesome ideas. BUT — an official spokesperson for the LDS Church said that caffeine is not outright barred from a Word-of-Wisdom-compliant diet.

    Since that has finally officially been put on record, BYU needs to start selling caffeinated drinks. BYU hosts fans six times a year, and some are already bummed they can’t have alcohol anywhere on campus or at any pre-game events. Imagine how frustrated you would then feel in that situation if, settling for a nice soft drink, you were told “we don’t have Coke.”

    Aside from the $$$$ BYU is eschewing for a Pharisaical policy, this is a huge reason to sell Coke/Dr P etc.

  3. Presten Norton

    September 3, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I’m curious to know how many THOUSANDS of dollars BYU is leaving on the table each game from this. You know LDS Moms would be double fisting Diet Cokes all game long. Dr. Pepper and Mtn Dew would sell quite well too.

  4. bradleysmith1212

    September 3, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    You could also incorporate some very unique cultural elements to the game day traditions…even if this were only for homecoming week. Here’s an imaginary agenda for the Texas game:

    12:00pm-Luncheon in the Quad
    12:30pm-BYU Folkdance Performance in the Quad
    1:00pm-Religious Education Series- this week featuring “Called to Serve” by Randy Bott – Main Ballroom in the Wilk
    1:00-4:45pm-Pre-Game Tailgater – hosted by the Marriott School of Business – Marriott Center Parking Lot. Featuring:
    FanFest and Giveaways by Vivint
    Football video boards presented by NuSkin
    Cougar Grill hosted by JDawgs
    KSL Kids’ Zone
    KSL Pre-Game Radio Show
    1:30pm-Studio C – Sketch Comedy Show – HFAC
    1:30pm-“Nauvoo the Beautiful” – Museum of Art
    2:00pm-Tunnel Singing with BYU Men’s Chorus-Tunnel Entrance in front of the Marriott Center
    2:30pm-Cougar Conversations Series – this week featuring Lavell Edwards “The Whole Armor” – at the Marriott Center
    3:00pm-Player Walk – From SAB along University Ave to Lavell Edwards Stadium
    3:30pm-Polynesian Cultural Performance – at the bottom of the steps in front of the Victory Bell (SW corner of MC)
    4:00pm-Drummer Circle-Victory Bell
    4:15pm-Marching Band: March to the Stadium-Starting at the Marriott Center to the Southwest Stadium Entrance
    4:30pm-Pre-Game Band Performance-University Ave – westside of Lavell Edwards Stadium
    5:00pm-Kickoff-BYU v. Texas – Lavell Edwards Stadium

    • Brett Hein

      September 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      “Only for homecoming week” would have to be it. I would hate to organize all that every week.

      • Doug Fillmore

        September 3, 2013 at 7:36 pm

        Notre Dame basically does all that and more every weekend. Seriously, I saw it last year first hand. It started on Friday and ended on Sunday. No kidding.

        • Brett Hein

          September 4, 2013 at 5:12 pm

          Oh, it’s achievable. Just not for several years. BYU’s gotta start small and build is all I’m saying.

  5. Jeff Rollins

    September 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    For tailgating I am not a big fan of sitting in a parking lot. I switch my parking pass every year to the intramural lot (5) so that I can pop up the canopy, BBQ and throw the football or frisbee around. The northwest corner of the lot would be a great location to get something small going that is closer to the stadium. BYU could easily designate it for CC members who want to tailgate and issue passes for those interested. I have checked out the Cougar Center Lot and right now it isn’t what I am expecting out of a tailgating experience. If UCLA can park and tailgate on a golf course surely the intramural field could be looked at as well.

  6. Presten Norton

    September 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Agreed with the grass feelings. My personal choice is the grass lot North of the track stadium where the band warms up. It’s big, it’s close and it’s easily accessible for all.

    • Brett Hein

      September 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm

      If we could just get it at a big, central location that included pavement and grass areas suitable for any activity desired.

  7. Jeff Rollins

    September 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    I understand the need for a parking lot for RV’s, but some of our best family times have been before and after games playing on the field.

    I do like all the ideas in the article. I am tripping to ND later this year and am excited to see how they do it up in South Bend. We are going in on Thursday night so we can soak as much of the atmosphere in as possible.

    BYU can do more, I am a little surprised about how they are waiting for demand. I think it is there, but fans are so used to the restrictions and other silly rules around game day that they don’t even consider it. Make an announcement about a change for the coming year and indicate what is available and what is planned and people will show up.

    The Cougar Kickoff in Provo and the Big Blue Bash in Salt Lake are great examples. I was just looking at the poster my son had signed in 2005 by Jake Kuresa, John Beck and others from that year along with photos with some of the players. Those kinds of events have been great and are an example of what can happen if BYU throws their support behind them.

    • Brett Hein

      September 3, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Well said. People are used to “can’t do that there!” or “not enough space, sorry” that they assume nothing will happen — therefore “no demand.” A lot of fans want more, so if the school takes the lead, then fans won’t have to worry about being kicked out of somewhere or being told “you can’t do that here”

    • Doug Fillmore

      September 3, 2013 at 7:43 pm

      You will love the ND experience but you will be disappointed for the rest of your life with the BYU game day experience unless someone decides to make an effort to improve it.

      • Brett Hein

        September 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm

        Isn’t that what the Cougar Walk is?

  8. Beau Graves (@BurntFlame)

    September 3, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Bring on the tailgating! We gotta get more fans out to the RV lot. We have grown it from nothing, let’s keep it going! Got my RV spot for Texas, and a brisket in the fridge!

  9. Spencer (@accounderson)

    September 3, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Bring back the Haka, and have Polynesian cultural dance or other Polynesian event before gametime.

    I also think it would be awesome to have youth football at halftime play for 5-10 minutes. That, or have a High School football game after the last home game of the season. We have to connect with the youth in the area and we should connect with our Poly roots.

    Finally, have the ribbons show Top 25 scores around the country and in-game stats. Before games, especially to encourage the student section and others to arrive early, the jumbotrons should show other live college football games AND/OR the BYUtv pregame show.

  10. brady mosher

    September 3, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    copy the u of u

    • Brett Hein

      September 4, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      If they are doing some things right, yeah — I’m up for copying Utah, Notre Dame, Florida State, Virginia, whoever is doing cool stuff and having an awesome experience for home and visiting fans.

  11. Jace Stringham

    September 3, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Unifying the students in one large section is a great start, but I would love to have some more things to unify us while at the games. While I don’t think that the ROC is the greatest name we could come up with, we could still use that to our advantage and use some of the things that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was famous for as a pro wrestler. For example, how could would it be to have thousands of students yell in unison “Can you smellllllllll what the ROC is cookin’?!” at the beginning of the game/before the start of the 4th quarter. What about everyone doing the sign for the Peoples’ Elbow prior to a crucial defensive play?

    Those are just some ideas, but I think they could go a long way toward not only keeping the students involved, but loud and raucous throughout the game. We need to generate some great student chants and traditions.

  12. Pingback: The Cougar Walk: A New BYU Tradition is Born - Loyal Cougars

  13. Presten Norton

    September 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm

  14. Dean Rowley

    September 4, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    Great ideas…not sure there’s enough “Fan”???? support. I used to drived down to the games from Seattle area back in the 80’s and 90’s and could never get a good seat…(they should have had a special section to honor those that drove the farthest to support the Cougars…but no, we only got worse and worse seats…now, I won’t drive down…watch it on TV…would love to be there, have season tickets and arrive Friday nights to start pre-game activiites…I’d love that, but it won’t happen…there’s not enough committed and loyal fans to go regardless of their record and most recetn win/loss record…

  15. BYU Alumni Outreach

    September 9, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Presten, great blog post. Here is a video from Saturday… http://bit.ly/byutailgate2013 – BYU Tailgate Lot #20 (advertised in the football season ticket package on page 7) opened at 8 a.m. on Sept. 7 for tailgating. One person, John showed up at 8:10 a.m. The next two people, Patrik and Aaron showed up from Texas around 8:30 a.m. and walked to Denny’s for breakfast. Although the lot did eventually fill up about two hours before kickoff, most people did not arrive until 3-4 hours before the game. Yes, this is different from Notre Dame where we paid $20 to park on someone’s lawn, a mile from the stadium or where ND fans paid $60 to park in the designated tailgate area. Ten thousand Notre Dame fans sold out and paid $100 each plus $20 for bus transportation to tailgate at the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship Game. ND does have great traditions. Their bookstore is wall-to-wall people and makes millions on game day. More than a thousand BYU alumni and friends expressed interest in tailgating when we started surveying three years ago. This is our second year for tailgating in Lot #20 (check out http://bit.ly/cougartown2013 on the road). It may take time for our traditions to grow. A Google marketing executive once said, be careful about what people say, watch what they do. The RV folks seem to be having a good time. We hope more people will show up early for tailgating in Lot #20 on Saturday, Sept. 21. http://alumni.byu.edu/byutailgate. Note: RV parking located at 2230 N 150 E, Provo is reserved through BYU Campus Scheduling the Monday before each game (801)422-3134.

  16. BYU Alumni Outreach

    September 9, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Sorry, correction on the video: http://bit.ly/byutailgate090713