The Marriott Center is a fortress. It is so intimidating that the building itself and the environment within make it difficult to schedule games. Wake Forest tried it out when they were ranked #6 in the nation, squeaked by with a 7-point victory, and have vowed to never come back to the Marriott Center. Too dangerous.
As BYU schedules games, the arrangement against teams like Virginia Tech is to play in their building, but when they come our way, they will compete only if we play a "neutral" game in SLC at Energy Solutions Arena. It’s essentially the only way we can schedule a game against a power conference team. Otherwise, we only play non-conference games at home against teams looking for a paycheck such as Eastern New Mexico or a brave program like Utah State. That’s the power of the Marriott Center.
These days, the Marriott Center, while still a good venue, seems a little off.
Before this season, the Marriott Center underwent a serious makeover. There was a seating arrangement change; old people want chairs to sit in. Not the school bus yellow chairs they were already sitting in, comfortable chairs. So, BYU ripped out all the lower bowl benches and replaced them with blue, padded seats for the Cougar Club. Nice and roomy ones. Fair enough, they do fund all the athletic scholarships, after all. This remodel freed up a bunch of those school bus yellow chairs where the Cougar Club used to sit. They were now available for more season ticket holders and as a result they could charge more for tickets in the cozy blue seats. This meant more money for the school.
By doing this it also meant that they had to kick the BYU students out of where their all sports passes had allowed them to attend the game on those lower bowl benches. The idea then was to place the students behind the basket. But no matter, they’ll be happy because they now get chairs. As a further bonus, they can wave their arms and what not and it will cause more missed free throws! This will make the Marriott Center even more of a fortress!
All in all, these decisions took away 1,800 seats from the Marriott Center. Costing 1,800 spots for the student all sports pass holders.
On paper, it wasn’t a problem. In reality, it has changed the atmosphere of the Marriott Center.
In theory, the students seated behind the basket should make it more difficult on opponents rather than having all the students sit across the sideline like they used to. They can more readily affect the free throws and be annoying visually when the opponent is on offense for half of the game.
The reality is that opposing teams are still shooting roughly the same free throw percentage in the Marriott Center as they always did. There have been studies that show that a crowd doesn’t really affect a team’s performance when it comes to shooting free throws specifically. The real annoyance of playing on the road for a team is noise.
Noise makes it harder to communicate. Noise adds panic to a situation. When things are noisy, it is uncomfortable. The US Armed Services use noise to torture people.
When the students were on the sideline, there were only supposed to be 20 people in a row on the bench, but it never was that way. Maybe 30 people instead. When there are 10 chairs, there will only be 10 people. Less people closer to the court equals less noise. Simple. (As a side note, I love selling the perk of chairs to a bunch of students who don’t sit during the game.)
The students being at one end of the court only means it is particularly noisy for opponents half of the game. By reducing the number of students attending games by 1,800 and moving them to chairs at one end of the court, it sure has quieted down the Marriott Center.
Maybe the students (and fans) won’t notice if we give them a stupid gimmick. The University of Utah has a nickname for their student section – The MUSS (Mighty Utah Student Section). Utah State University’s student nickname is "The Herd". What if we give a nickname to our student section? "Student section" isn’t suitable anymore. "Student section" doesn’t look good on a t-shirt. So, BYU athletics marketing came up with the ROC. The Roar of Cougars has been force fed ever since. For instance…
At halftime we will hand out props of big head cutouts of famous BYU personalities. This is what they do at San Diego State, and it is awesome! We aren’t saying they are better fans than us, but it is something for you to do. Maybe as you hold a big head cutout of President Samuelson you won’t notice that we took seats away from All Sports pass holders.
All of you to the left side of the basket, where the cameras can get a really good shot, make sure you have the right piece of the giant poster of Dick Vitale’s head. This is something that brought attention to the "Cameron Crazies" at Duke University, so we should do it, too! We aren’t saying they are better fans at Duke, but we should be more like them. We know that Dick Vitale has NEVER made a visit to our campus, but hey, we are on ESPNU a few times a year. Even though Dick Vitale is NEVER on ESPNU. But here you go, hold up your pieces when we tell you to, and it makes a Dick Vitale head, even though he has zero connection to the BYU vs. Portland game going on right now. I mean, you won’t be able to watch the free throw being taken, and many of you will wonder who Dick Vitale is, but look at the (perceived) spirit and creativity of the ROC!
These things only work when they are organically conceived. Wild Bill just happened. A fat guy started wearing revealing costumes to games and has become the unofficial mascot for Utah State. It just happened. Utah State marketing doesn’t hand Wild Bill a costume to wear when he enters The Spectrum. A marketing team doesn’t orchestrate all of the stuff Duke does at their games. It happens because the students and fans have ownership over what is going on.
Marketing didn’t create "You Got Jimmered!" The fans did. Had marketing come up with that, it wouldn’t have taken off. The Jimmermania made it perfectly clear that BYU fans and students have the ability to etch out their unique flavor of fanhood. Let them do it.
Don’t say, here hold up these signs when we tell you to. Don’t tell us how to be fans like you did with the embarrassing Fan Playbook Video. Do you think we aren’t good fans? Did we need help? Hasn’t the Marriott Center generally been a great college basketball venue and atmosphere anyway? Ask Wake Forest what it was like to play in the Marriott Center. Why are you fixing something that has always worked well on its own?
I know it is only the 1st year of the ROC existence. It will feel more normal in the future. But take the reigns off. Trust the students and fans to figure out how they will support the team because they have always been terrific and supportive. Let them invest in the team; they will have more pride that way. Isn’t that what marketing is trying to generate anyway? Pride?
What is done is done. BYU certainly isn’t going to rip out the blue chairs and put benches back in. Tom Holmoe has found a way to suck more money out of the basketball program. That’s his job. The students are now going to be known as the ROC going forward. Fine.
There have been unanticipated consequences from changing the Marriott Center. Kind of like when the Steinbrenner’s built the new Yankees Stadium. They soon would find out that the way the wind moves through the stadium causes more home runs. The Yankees priced out the loyal, noisy fans and changed the atmosphere for their home games. Still good, just not the same as before.
I just miss when I felt like teams were intimidated to play here. I miss never giving up 60 points in a half (toward the ROC). I miss the students cheering out of duty rather than because they were instructed too. The atmosphere found inside the Marriott Center has changed. Still good, just not the same as before.