The Cougs of Brigham Young university alight The Blue this evening in a nationally televised tussle between two teams that don't like each other very much. Honestly though, who likes BYU? You're likely to see a Boise State season-ticket holder wearing a BYU cap with his BSU jacket tonight...and you must resist the urge to throat punch this gentleman. Everyone gets confused now and again, you see. The game has been analyzed this way and that, but now that the rubber is about to meet the road, we're past all that. It's time for useless facts and trivia about our "friends" to the south. Get ready for a King James Version of know your enemy.
Ten things you might not have known about BYU or their deseret digs
10) Provo, Utah—the home of Brigham Young University—was discovered by a missionary...but not one of the Dockers and starched dress-shirt variety. A Spanish Franciscan missionary named Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante probably stumbled onto the area right around the time that America was born. It wasn't till about 75 years later when 33 Mormon families from Salt Lake established Fort Utah where Provo stands today. Just a year later, the settlement was renamed "Provo" in honor of French Canadian fur trader Étienne Provost—widely believed to be the first man of European descent to behold the Great Salt Lake in all its salty glory. Why is the city not named, “Provost”? Ask the residents of Ohiost.
9) BYU's roots go back all the way to 1862, when a guy named Warren Dusenberry started a little school in Provo. 13 years later, LDS church president Brigham Young personally purchased a building known as the Lewis building with the intent to make an academy for the children of the church members. Young felt that institutions of higher-learning at the time were filled with too many godless hippies and said as much about his hopes for the new school:
Pernicious?! How dare you not tell me what that word means!
Classes at the new Brigham Young Academy commenced in January of 1876 and Young gave Dusenberry the job of interim principal until his hand-picked headman—a German immigrant named Karl Maeser arrived and mustached it UP super hard. The LDS church became the school's official sponsor in 1896 and the school grew big enough to get the "university" tag in 1903.
8) BYU actually first played "competitive" football in 1896 when they took on the likes of Utah, the Elks, the Crescents (a collection of rolls, I assume), the Salt Lake YMCA, the Wheel Club of Denver, and Westminster College. Records say they won "the championship" that year, which I imagine must've been some trophy or tall glass of milk because I'm not sure what league held a local Elks club AND the Wheel club of Denver...best I can figure, they beat Westminster College and Utah and someone told them they were the champs of central Utah and BYU ran with it (they do that).
BYU (really BYA at that time) continued to play football up until 1899 when an accidental football-related death in Utah prompted the LDS church to ban football at all church schools for 20 whole years. In 1919, the church eased up and allowed intramural football on campus as long as everyone promised not to die (or strike opponents with a closed fist upon their 'nethers'). The next year, in 1920, the school reinstated intercollegiate football competition and the rest, as they say, is history.
Guy in upper far right of the pic was on his way to the opera.
7) Head of Physical Education and track coach Eugene "Timp" Roberts (no relation) is generally credited with bringing the "Cougars" nickname to the football team in the 1920s. By the 1950s, the mascot was adopted by all the universities athletic squads and "Cosmo the Cougar", the costumed university mascot was born. Cosmo got his name much like the city of Provo...by way of sloppy abbreviation...this time the shortening of "cosmopolitan", which the university totally is, you guys. The current iteration of Cosmo is of a questionable ethnic background, wears the double-zero jersey and can gaze directly into your soul.
A real cougar has a less scary face.
6) BYU's first football All-American was quarterback Eldon Fortie, who played at the school from 1960—1962. Fortie was just 5'9" and 165 lbs. but played larger than his frame. During his senior season, Fortie led the country in total offense for the first eight weeks of the year before ultimately being passed by Oregon State's Terry Baker, who won the Heisman trophy that year. In one game during his senior year, Fortie rushed for 272 yards...a school record that stood until a couple of weeks ago, when RB Jamaal Williams rushed for 286 yards against Toledo. Fortie was nicknamed "the Phantom", I'm guessing because of his affinity for terrible Billy Zane movies.
5) If you'd like to hear about BYU's stadium namesake, LaVell Edwards...well here goes. Edwards is the winningest coach in BYU football history, with 257 wins, and as you'd expect, also the longest tenured coach in the school's history by at least 20 years. When Edwards arrived at BYU, the school had suffered through years of football mediocrity, but his focus on transforming the offense into that of the pass-first variety led to big changes in the team's success and perception. For instance, no one could really name a BYU QB before Edwards' tenure...now you can probably name several (Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Ty Detmer, Steve Sarkisian, etc). Edwards' squads won 19 conference championships and 1 AP national championship (1984). They've won just 3 conference titles since his retirement in 2000...but of course, there are no titles for independents, which they've been since 2011 when they quit the MWC in a fit of pique. By all accounts, Edwards was/is a great guy, but his sideline demeanor was somewhere between "bitter beer face" and Grandpa Jones from Hee Haw! A compilation:
Let a scowl be your umbrella.
4) BYU's oft-maligned Honor Code has invited its share of criticism and controversy over the years, but one outdated requirement was finally revisited in 2015...the school's ban on beards. Yes, the school is named after a famously bearded gentleman, but whiskers were put on ice (yum) in the 1970s after school president Ernest Wilkinson declared that BYU was "no place for grimy, sandaled, tight-fitted, ragged-Levi beatniks"...aw, what about tight-fitted Bugle Boys?
At any rate, the beard rule became enshrined in the school's Honor Code and remained untouched until January of last year when the school made several exceptions to the rule. Firstly, if your religion requires it (think Muslims, Sikhs) you may stow your razor. Secondly, if a medical condition makes shaving painful or difficult you're also in the clear. Thirdly, if you are playing a bearded character in a play and don't want to use spirit gum (Holy Spirit gum in Provo), you also may cancel your subscription to Dollar Shave Club. So, in summary...yeah, you pretty much still can't have a beard at BYU.
A beard for me, but not for thee.
3) Clyde Sandgren penned "The Cougar Song" in 1932 and it became BYU's fight song after it was copyrighted in 1947. The song is alternatively known as "Rise and Shout" and is tediously supposed to be sung after each touchdown and field goal. The lyrics are probably a bit too lengthy for me to publish here in their entirety, but the rousing anthem begins with the words, "Rise all loyal Cougars and hurl your challenge to the foe", a line that makes it sound as if BYU fans ate some seriously bad challenge and it's about to come back up. Urp.
2) If you aren't LDS and live in Provo, well you sir or madam are a minority. As of 2013, 88% of the city's residents belonged to the Mormon church...the exact percentage of votes that Mitt Romeny won in the city in 2012. Correlation? Perhaps the non-member folks work for one of the five billion dollar companies that reside in Provo—Vivint, Qualtrics, Ancestry.com, Novell, and Nu Skin. A 2017 merger between two of the juggernauts is expected, so you'll definitely want to buy stock in "Ancestor Skin" when it goes public.
1) Author Stephenie Meyer, who penned the Twilight series of books about some emo vampires who fight Native American werewolves or something is a BYU alum (B.A. '93). Prior to writing the book series that made Bram Stoker AND Bela Lugosi spin, rotisserie-style, in their graves, Meyer was a stay-at-home mom and had no writing experience whatsoever (shocker). My wife dragged me to the first book-to-film adaptation in 2008 and I should have known something was amiss when I realized I was the only male in the theater. Sure, I earned some brownie points that day but at what cost? AT WHAT COST?!