by Daniel Olsen
Imagine going on the road to Knoxville, Tennessee. While it is just over 1,500 miles away from Provo, there was still a large portion of screaming BYU fans in the victory over the Volunteers in 2019. Why is this? It’s time to see what makes BYU a national fan base.
Diverse student athletes
While 60 of the current players from the BYU football roster are from Utah, there really are players from everywhere. There are 21 from California, eight from Arizona, two from Colorado, four from the state of Washington, two from Nevada, one from Washington D.C, one from New Jersey, one from Wyoming, six from Hawaii, one from France, two from Arkansas, three from Texas, three from Idaho, one from Oregon, one from Kansas, one from Florida, one from Virginia and one from Connecticut.
That means BYU football is represented by 17 states, one from the nation’s capital and one from the capital of France. While most are from the Rocky Mountains to the West Coast, there is still representation from all regions. It’s a good thing that athletes from everywhere want to come to BYU. A Utah Super League is fun for high school. However, it limits their recruiting potential if they just focus on this state.
Racking up the travel miles
How many miles does BYU travel in a season? Last year, it wasn’t as much due to the global pandemic. However, it was still a significant amount of miles for only four road games in the regular season. The Cougars averaged 1,322.5 miles per road trip, and that’s just for a one way ticket.
Round trip, the BYU Cougars traveled a total of 10,580 miles for regular season football games in 2020. That’s more than the entire BYU men’s cross country team probably runs in a month.
The reason for so many miles is the shortest trip was still an out-of-state trip to Boise. They also made two trips to the East Coast and one to Houston Texas. The longest trip to Coastal Carolina was done on short notice. The Cougars had only a couple days to make the 1,859 mile journey to Conway to play the Chanticleers. The BYU Equipment truck made headlines in the process for making the long drive in such a short time.
If these miles didn’t garner national attention then some might consider it a waste of time. However, it is getting attention. BYU especially last year was a Top 25 ranked team for most of the year and received primetime TV slots on ESPN networks. If that doesn’t scream national fan base, then what does?
Fans nearby will go to road games
The previously mentioned Tennessee game is a great example of how well BYU fans travel. There were several thousand strong of BYU fans in a sea of orange. The neutral site game vs Arizona in Las Vegas this year sold out the BYU allotted tickets in just a couple hours after going on sale.
The nice part about being a religious school is that members of that church live all across the nation. This is similar to Notre Dame. Some fans even like to make a road trip and see other sporting events or tourism attractions during their trip. In the East Coast, states are closer together. That’s why it’s easier for an entire region of states to travel to the nearest BYU game.
2021 and beyond
This season, the Cougars will play in six different states including Utah. They will play against seven teams from Power Five conferences which is arguably their toughest schedule to date. There will be very little travel the first month. The neutral site game at Nevada kicks off the year and the Cougars will then spend the next month in Utah at home and against in-state opponents.
Pete Fiutak of College Football News proposes an agreement between BYU and the Pac-12 conference similar to Notre Dame and the ACC. While that sounds intriguing, it may not work to the level that it does for the Fighting Irish. The Pac-12 is arguably the least respected conference in the P5 as far as college football is concerned. They haven’t had an appearance since the 2017 College Football Playoff.
BYU is better off with the “Any time, any team, any place” mantra. Put on the Zach Wilson headband and hit the road. That’s how small-town singers make it big. They don’t make it big by hosting concerts in the Riverwoods shopping center in Provo. That is why BYU should keep doing their thing and appeal to their national fan base.
Featured image courtesy Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports