Kalani Sitake and BYU football announced that in season firesides will no longer occur. Instead, they will take place in the spring. Check out this poll that we ran on Twitter that hundreds of you participated in:
Sitake is moving the firesides from the night before the game to the Spring— Vanquish The Foe (@VanquishTheFoe) April 19, 2016
An astonishing 93% of Cougar fans see this as a "good move" to get rid of the traditional firesides. I am not sure I can express how amazing this one-sided stance is. I tried to think of a poll that would receive similar votes from Cougar fans and I couldn't think of one.
There is no doubt in my mind that the main factor is spite for Bronco Mendenhall. I am confident that had Sitake instituted firesides, the results would be drastically different.
Not that there is anything wrong with that necessarily, wanting change with a new coach is fine, I am just not convinced this reflects how people feel about the actual fireside itself.
Here are some things many of you may have not considered.
People on the other side of the fence will miss the experience. Pat Hammond is one of those individuals and has attended several firesides dating back to the 2006 Vegas bowl against Oregon. She enjoyed everything about them no matter what state they were in and cited religious reasons as being the main reason. Here is another reason:
"Perhaps fans who live in Utah have so much access to team activities that they do not realize what a blessing something like this is to people who live out of state."
It is definitely true that people who live in Utah have a lot of access to the team. As a student, you see them on campus, in class, at the library etc. Even as a non-student, you often see football players at other sporting events and have the ability to go to several games a year. Out of state fans get none of that.
She went on to say that many detractors to firesides have no clue what they are talking about:
"Every time I ask fans (who oppose firesides) if they've ever attended one, they answer no. It seems unjust to judge an activity you have never witnessed in person. I would love to talk to the person who attended one and thought they were pointless."
I am 25, went to BYU for four years and have never attended a fireside. I imagine many are in a similar situation and just go along with the masses who have spoken out against them.
You might be thinking at this point, "well, they're still going to happen, just not during football season, so what's the big deal?" Pat answered that question:
"I realize that he is going to do the firesides in the Spring. The problem with that is that I can't afford to travel to a city twice. And the whole team will not be there. It will not be the same. I will not be surprised to see that they die away. There were times during the Vegas Bowl years when my budget would not allow for my attendance to the games, but I could always go to the fireside and feel involved in that way."
Think for a minute if you're a parent of 5 kids and middle class. Spending hundreds of dollars to go see the Cougars play when they come to town can be out of your price range, but a fireside is free. Going along with her earlier point, firesides during the season gave out of state people access they didn't have before and was incredibly affordable, allowing less fortunate people to attend.
I feel like all of these points are things that many didn't think about when evaluating firesides. More often than not we just hear, "put football first!", "players get too tired" or "it's an unnecessary distraction." Let's break each one down.
BYU needs to put football first and forget about the other stuff.
Why this thinking is dumb: I hate to burst your bubble, but BYU will never put any sport first. This is like wishing that BYU will drop the honor code to benefit recruiting, it's not going to happen. Even beyond that, is that really what some people want? These aren't professionals, they're 18 to 25 year old kids, most of whom have no future in football so why have football as the main priority?
Why this thinking is smart: While BYU is a religious institution, maybe the night before a game isn't the best time to be furthering that mission. People go to bed early the night before a big meeting or interview, why ask the players to do something different from their purpose of making the trip?
The players get too tired.
Why this thinking is dumb: This is easily the most overblown excuse for getting rid of firesides. They're held to an hour. To get there and back to the hotel is maybe two hours of their time? Does anyone actually believe that players somehow get tired from sitting in a fireside compared to, say, sitting in a hotel room? Also, they're optional, so if players are super tired, they can skip out.
This was even cited when Sitake made the announcement, with regards to the Michigan game last year. Fan bases love to make excuses for blowouts, but this is one of the dumber ones. Maybe they were tired from playing four games all over the country in less than a month? Seriously, they played in Nebraska, Provo, LA, and then Michigan all within 28 days. You're trying to tell me that a two-hour fireside is why the guys got tired? Please.
Why this thinking is smart: It's not.
Firesides are an unnecessary distraction.
Why this thinking is dumb: Again, they're optional. If it's that bad, they can skip out.
Why this thinking is smart: Firesides got dropped because the players didn't like them, period. Nobody is willing to say this but it is true given their decision. If a parent asks their kid, do you want Cocoa Pebbles or Trix for breakfast, and they pick Trix, we can't say for sure that they dislike Cocoa Pebbles. We only know that they like Trix more. Which, by the way, is an awful preference and might be a reason to take them to therapy.
However, this isn't what happened at all, the players made a choice between having them or not having them. It is like asking that same hungry child if they want Trix or no cereal at all. The team decided they didn't want to deal with them.
This is tough. One the one hand I appreciate how BYU is about more than football and I sympathize with fans who don't have the resources to attend high priced games. An elementary kid getting to see their role models in that setting impacts them for good, no doubt. But put plainly, I think Sitake and company made the right decision.
The only reason I say that is because it is what the players wanted. These guys provide entertainment to hundreds of thousands of us on Saturdays in the fall for no money, the least we can do is let them make the decision of what to do the night before the game.
I respect the coaches decision to consult the players and not try to instill in them a desire to do something they obviously did not want to do. While I personally find many of the fan excuses weak, I trust that the coaches and players are doing what is best for them. It is pretty hard to argue with that.