"I've been to many football games – probably over 250 all told including at least 200 SC games and 50 Aztec games," said Mike. "Venues I've been to are SC, UCLA, Stanford [old stadium], Cal, Oregon State [before this year's remodel], Washington, SDSU, Colorado State, Georgia, and Notre Dame. In addition, I've also got quick glimpses of Utah, Miami, and Colorado."
Game atmosphere is always important for college football. Mike says that BYU matches up to just about every place he has been.
"I would rate BYU right up there with Georgia, Cal, and Notre Dame," he said. "I hit Washington on a down-year last year -- but I've heard when they are rolling it's quite a place. Oregon State was surprisingly loud for what, at the time, was such a small stadium. Cal is still my favorite trip for the SC game, because SC fans take over San Francisco for the weekend and it is a very fun time, and I just like the old feel of Berkeley's Memorial Stadium. I'd rather they not renovate it."
Yes, Provo is a different place, especially before the game, which surprised the SDSU guest.
"The one thing I've noticed about BYU on the negative side during the two trips I've made there [the other was for SC two years ago] was the lack of tailgating going on," said Mike. "I realize that the Mormon faith probably had something to do with that, but I couldn't figure for the life of me why picnicking [sans alcohol] in such a beautiful setting would be so sparse. It seems like people come out of nowhere five minutes before the game starts, which makes parking for us early-birds a snap! I think BYU really misses out by not having more of a pre-game atmosphere. Stand on campus at either Notre Dame or USC two hours before kickoff and you'll know what I'm talking about."
However, Mike says that a great college atmosphere is made by the fans and their support for their team as well as by their hospitality towards visiting guests.
"The game atmosphere is top-notch as far as the fans are concerned," he said. "I liked the fact that there is enough student support to have them spread in large clumps throughout the stadium, and they are very loud. Good stuff! I love BYU's stadium, and think SDSU would benefit from something similar ON CAMPUS. They are remote and outsized in Qualcomm Stadium.
"BYU fans treated me quite nicely. I think part of that was that they knew they were going to have an easy day, and maybe they appreciated that I made the trip for such a horrible Aztec team. The one instance I can think of when I felt ‘put upon' in some way by a BYU fan isn't even worth mentioning; those that were around him gave the guy a look of, ‘You just need to shut up.'
"Personnel at the stadium were also quite friendly, knowledgeable, and even long lines at the hot dog stand went quickly—trying standing at a 30 foot line at the L.A. Coliseum or Qualcomm—bring a hammock). "
Of course, college football is all about tradition and Mike noticed a thing or two about the way the Cougars do things in Provo.
"Two or three little things stood out that I liked," he said. "One was the pre-game prayer, which is a tradition that I'm pretty sure you share with Notre Dame. I would have felt a little weird about it had it been at a public school, but since you're a church-run university, I thought it was a nice touch. Two was the national anthem, which was nice to hear at full-throat volume. Three was the ‘Rise and Shout' in what I'm guessing was the Cougar fight song. It keeps everybody in the spirit. There would be four, but when you are in the middle of a 40-3 first half blow out, the last thing an Aztec fan wants to hear is the P.A. guy say, ‘And that's another Cougar...' That got a little annoying as an Aztec."
Without knowing it beforehand, Mike ended up staying at the BYU team hotel the night before the game and even stayed in the room that was located right next to a few of the BYU football players. He was impressed with the well-mannered young men and even noticed a thing or two he had not thought of before.
"What a weird feeling as I was walking the hallways with my SDSU baseball hat on and bumping into these guys with their BYU sweats on," Mike recounted. "Seeing them walk around, it was a good reminder that these guys, no matter how big and with how much pressure on them, are really just kids and very young. It's easy to forget that reality when you only see them with their helmets and pads on."
So there you have it. Based on a highly controlled study with sample size of one and a margin of error of ±100%, road trips to BYU rank right up there with storied programs like Notre Dame and Georgia. Apparently Cougar fans don't know how good they have it.
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