My first professional visit to the BYU campus, 1972, was to cover the Class B state high school basketball tournament at the old Smith Fieldhouse.
At halftime, as instructed, I walked to the ticket office in an attempt to acquire press credentials for the following week's Class A finals in Salt Lake City.
"They're not here," I was told.
I could see the name of my newspaper, owned by the LDS church, on a packet next to the BYU ticket man.
"It's right there," I said.
"Can't give it to you," he said. No amount of negotiation moved the ticket man to produce my press credentials.
I mumbled something unprintable as I turned away. Before I got back to the press box, I was grabbed by a security guard and told to get my things and leave the premises. Now, if not sooner.
"But I've got a game to cover," I protested. "I'll be fired. I've only been on the job a few weeks."
I was escorted to the front door and told not to return.
When I reported for work the following Monday morning, the managing editor summoned me.
"Did you use (unprintable word) in the presence of the BYU ticket manager and his wife?"
"Am I fired?"
"Not yet," the boss told me.
And here we are, 35 years later, going back to Provo, Utah, for Saturday's Arizona-BYU football opener. I worry not about me, for I have been warned, but for Mike Stoops.
What will the security people do if Mr. Volatile launches into one of his (ahem) flammable moods Saturday afternoon?
Game day at BYU, and in Provo, is unlike any in the Pac-10. UA fans should not venture forth without suitable caution.
● No racy T-shirts. Two years ago, the BYU student newspaper yanked a series of ads from a T-shirt vendor who was selling I CAN'T … I'M MORMON shirts. Sounds harmless? Not in Provo. Let's just say the list of can'ts at LaVell Edwards Stadium is strictly enforced: no cola drinks, no coffee, no tobacco, no alcohol and, happily, no headaches Sunday morning.
● People at BYU can be much more likable than those at, say, Oregon and Arizona State. Last Saturday, 765 people lined up to hug 18-year-old BYU freshman Jordan Pearce, who broke the Guinness Book of World Records for most hugs given to one person in an hour. I would like to see how many would line up to hug ex-Cougar Danny Ainge? Two? One? None?
● Looking for a cheap hotel? Ha, ha, ha, ha. The four Marriott properties in Provo (all sold out) last week were offered from $149 to $169 per night. However, next weekend, when BYU is out of town, the same rooms are available for $89 nightly.
● Reports that BYU fans do not tailgate is a myth. You can purchase, online, BYU tailgate chairs for $39 each. Or a BYU logo tailgate mat for $189. My lasting memory of BYU tailgaters came at the 1984 Holiday Bowl in San Diego. As I walked through the Jack Murphy Stadium parking lot, I saw a large gathering of BYU fans standing in a circle, holding hands, heads down, while someone blessed the food. A few hours later, BYU was a national champion.
● There is no Hooters in Provo or Utah County. There is but one in the state of Utah, 45 miles north in Salt Lake City.
● If BYU wins and you're thinking of converting to the LDS faith Sunday morning, you can choose from any of the 136 meeting houses in the greater Provo-Orem area. One per block, or pretty close. Can't miss 'em.
● Do not show your ignorance by claiming that the school cannot spell. East of the football stadium, on the imposing Wasatch Mountains, is a large block "Y" that has been in place for 101 years. You see it on TV all the time. What happened to the B and the U, you ask? In 1906, school officials ordered the Y to be constructed first to properly gauge alignment. But the work was so formidable — 20,000 pounds of sand and cement were required — that they went with the abbreviation.
● Yes, we've all heard the miracle of the sea gulls story that saved the Mormon pioneers in 1848. Sea gulls by the thousands arrived just in time to eat legions of crickets dining on the pioneers' first-year crops. Mormons teach that the sea gulls/crickets event was divinely inspired. The sea gull is thus the Utah state bird. So, please, late in the game Saturday, when sea gulls are dive-bombing the thinning grandstands, scavenging for food, do not throw your smuggled (empty) beer bottles at them.