BYU’s football team is one of the most popular in the NCAA. No, it’s not because they win a lot of games – they don’t. Instead, it’s because of their unique culture. Well, we say it’s time to filter the rumors from the fact. As such, here are ten things you didn’t know about BYU football:
1. BYU turned Steve Young into the great NFL player that he was
Steve Young, the legendary NFL quarterback, has been a talented football player all his life. In fact, when it was time for him to go to college, he was heavily recruited. Out of all his options, he chose to go to Brigham Young University to play football. When he first started playing, he had problems throwing the ball. He was so bad that the coaching staff considered switching him to the defensive back position. Determined not to let this happen, Young worked hard to improve his passing skills. Eventually, he beat the record set by BYU alum and NFL great, Jim McMahon.
2. The BYU football team is one of 21 NCAA varsity teams for their school
Even though there are over twenty BYU teams, they are all named the Cougars. Furthermore, ever since 1999, most of these teams (19) play mainly for the Mountain West Conference.
This lasted until the school became independent and left that conference in 2011. Prior to this, BYU teams competed in the Western Athletic Conference.
3. BYU football players tend to be older than their competitors
In the Mormon religion, males must go on a two-year mission when they reach the age of 18. So, it’s not surprising when in 2012, approximately 79% of the male student body was reported to have served missions. With these figures in mind, it’s safe to say that the vast majority of the football players are returned Latter Day Saint missionaries. As a result, BYU athletes are often 2 years older, on average, than the players from other schools.
4. BYU football players cannot curse
Because BYU was founded by and is ran by the Latter Day Saints, all students must follow an Honor Code. This Honor Code states that students must be honest, live a chaste life, use clean language and abstain from alcoholic beverages, amongst others. While you may think this is silly, there are some BYU athletes that were expelled because they did not follow the Honor Code.
5. Jim McMahon was a BYU Cougar
Jim McMahon is known for his storied NFL career, complete with two Super Bowl titles. What you may not know is that he played college football for BYU. During his freshman season, McMahon’s primary job was a punter. This continued until 1978 when Mark Wilson got injured in the third game of the season. It was then that McMahon became the starting quarterback. Pretty soon, he was leading BYU to victory on a regular basis. He was inducted into the BYU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014.
6. Utah, its biggest rival, is its sister school
BYUs rivalry with the University of Utah is the stuff of college football legend. It can get so contentious and petty, it’s almost reminiscent of sibling rivalry.
This is a more accurate assessment than you may think. BYU and the University of Utah were both founded by the same person, Brigham Young. So, technically you can say they have the same father.
7. Many of their fans bleed blue and red
All BYU (blue) fans know about its fierce rivalry with Utah (red). But, did you know there are fans of both schools that proclaim their love loudly? While this goes against the rules of fanhood, these fans insist that you don’t have to give up one to like the other.
8. Their mascot was a real cougar
Many fans are used to the costumed Cosmo the Cougar mascot of BYU. But, did you know that once upon a time, the mascot was an actual cougar? Well, two cougar kittens (Tarko and Cleo) actually. The kittens were brought to BYU after David Rust, an alum, captured a mama cougar and her kittens. Tarko and Cleo were removed as the official mascots after they did a bit of misbehaving. The two wildcats got loose and killed two dogs in 1929. Cosmo was introduced in 1953 and has been a BYU staple ever since.
9. They don’t play football on Sundays
One of the tenets of the Latter Day Saints is that they must devote their Sundays to the Lord. Because the majority of the school’s students are Mormon, Sundays are a sacred day reserved for religious activities. Except for the most die-hard fans, it’s safe to say that football doesn’t fit into this category.
10. Their mascot underwent cosmetic surgery
In 1997, BYU’s Athletic Media Relations office announced that Cosmo fell 100 feet while hunting Red Tail Hawks (Utah’s mascot). Many students saw the fall and were able to get help. The paramedics arrived on time but were forced to perform emergency surgery on Cosmo. One of those procedures involved a reduction in head size.
The Bottom Line
BYU football’s history is intriguing to say the least. No matter how you feel about the Cougars, you must admire their grit and dedication to their values. Say it with us one time, GO COUGARS!