The Broncos face the last leg of their rough two-week conference "away" slate tomorrow night after acing their first test against Colorado State a week ago. The Utah State Aggies promise to be a bit more tricky of an "out" for the Broncos, but they've been up to the task the last oh...TWELVE times or so. We've already previewed the Aggies...now let's really get to know them.
Ten things you might not know about Utah State or their Aggie abode
10) Logan, Utah was founded by Mormon settlers in 1859. Brigham Young, famous for being Steve Young's great-great-great grandfather, sent a group of men to survey a fort site in the Cache Valley. The surveyors soon began to divvy up the parcels of land and plant wheat that would later be creamed. The berg was given the name "Logan" after Ephraim Logan, an area trapper of furs (some that were even still attached to animals). Fur trappers in the 1800s were like the pop stars of today, you see. In 150 years, historians will marvel at the humble beginnings of Bieber, Iowa.
9) Why is the New Mexico State Aggie a cowboy and the Utah State Aggie a
pig cow bull? Well, an Aggie mascot generally denotes that the school is an agricultural institution. Utah State was established in Logan, Utah as the Agricultural College of Utah and didn't become Utah State University until 1957. The first athletics teams actually were known as "the Farmers" and their original fight song can be heard below:
8) The Agricultural College of Utah competed in their first collegiate football game in 1892. The coachless team shut out the visiting Utes and apparently were so pleased by the display that they failed to play another game for the rest of the year and then it slipped their mind to play any further games until 1896, when Brigham Young Academy traveled to Logan to hand them a 6-0 defeat...again, their only game of the "season". The squad didn't play more than one game a year until 1901, when they finally got themselves a coach—the redundantly named Dick Richards, and a six-game schedule that pitted them against the likes of the "Ogden Mutes", the National Guard, and a local high school. They went 3-2-1 and yes, they beat the Mutes, primarily because they were unable to read their sign-language telling them they were just there for a picnic.
7) Utah State has always been populated by a host of religious students and faculty, but what their football team did to Idaho State in 1919 had to have broken at least on commandment. On October 11th of that year, the Aggies hosted the Bengals and proceeded to take them to the woodshed (and not to just 'show them around') for four quarters, and when the closing whistle mercifully ended the contest, ISU had been handed a historic 136-0 loss. Coach E.L. "Dick" Romney was the head man for the Aggies that day (and yes that was his nickname prior to the contest, not just after) and when asked why he didn't let up on the hapless Bengals quipped, "Bengals? I thought we were playing those showboat Ogden Mutes"
6) One of the official fight songs of the Aggies sports teams is called "Show me the Scotsman". Student Ebenezer Kirkham composed the ditty in 1918, but variations of the song had been in use for years prior. The traditional lyrics are as follows:
Show me the Scotsman who doesn't love the thistle.
Show me the Englishman who doesn't love the rose.
Show me the true blooded Aggie from Utah
Who doesn't love the spot . . .
Where the sagebrush grows!
The University of Idaho briefly co-opted the tune in the 80s but changed the lyrics to "Show me the Scotch, man".
5) Utah State actually has an alum named Archimedes Plutonium. Ludwig Poehlmann graduated from Utah State in 1979 with a Masters in Education. He later went bat-BW insane, legally changed his named to Archimedes Plutonium and gained "internet notoriety" (like regular notoriety, but sadder) by positing hundreds of scientific theories on Usenet (not to be confused with Skynet) . Among some of his more "interesting" "findings": the universe is a giant plutonium atom, and that he had invented a new decimal number notation that leads to proofs/disproofs of the prime number theorem. Archimedes Plutonium Basketball Arena will open with an exhibition of Weber State in November of 2017.
4) Enough about eccentric alums—how about AWESOME ones? Founder of Atari AND Chuck E Cheese's Nolan Bushnell is actually a University of Utah grad but transferred there from Utah State and why would you not claim this man as an alum?! Seriously, if he'd invented the keytar and headbands, he'd have controlling interest in the entire decade of the 80s. In 2008, it was announced that Leonardo DiCaprio would play Bushnell in a probably-now-abandoned biopic called Atari. The casting was a major act of charity to Bushnell who looks a lot more like Howard Hesseman from WKRP in Cincinnati than DiCaprio.
Is that you, Johnny Fever?
3) The practice facility for the Utah State men's and women's basketball teams is called the Wayne Estes Center. Who was Wayne Estes, you might ask? Well, he was an All-American forward for the Aggies basketball team from 1963 to 1965 and the third-leading scorer in school history. In 1965, Estes was the nation's second-leading scorer behind only Hall of Famer Rick Barry, but on February 8th, after scoring 48 points in a game against the University of Denver—Estes was killed when he accidentally touched a downed powerline at a vehicle crash near campus. Estes was posthumously named an All-American by the AP...an All-America team that featured future NBA hall of famers like the aforementioned Barry, as well as Bill Bradley and Gail Goodrich. No one can really say what heights Estes could have achieved had he lived, but his legacy still looms large in Logan, Utah...even 50 years after his death.
2) Speaking of namesakes, the Aggies play their home football games on Merlin Olsen Field—named after not only the best Aggie to ever play the game, but arguably one of the best to play the game, period. Merlin Olsen was born in Logan in 1940 and was toughened up by an upbringing that included 9 siblings, but only enough food for 8. Well, at least that's how I envision it. Regardless, Olsen went on to become a star defensive tackle for the Aggies—eventually earning All-America honors AND the most outlandish of all awards, the Outland Trophy as a senior. Olsen was drafted in the first round of the 1962 NFL Draft by the L.A. Rams and would spend his entire career there...a career that saw him selected to the Pro Bowl 14 times and to the All-Pro first team 6 times. Olsen died in 2010, but lived long enough to see his alma mater rename their home field in his honor. You might also remember Olsen as the brawny but kind-hearted Jonathan Garvey on TV's Little House on the Prairie. I know I do, and find great comfort in picturing him and Michael Landon working at the Walnut Grove lumber mill in Heaven.
Merlin was a wizard on the gridiron.
1) Utah State's campus is split down the middle by the Logan City Cemetery, where over 17,000 of the dearly departed are interred. The unique cemetery placement will come in handy when the Aggies Mountain West Championship dreams die nearby tomorrow night. Can I get a rimshot?