Utah Utes football: Fan club a MUSS-do for U. students

Utah football's 12th man is now 5,000 strong

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 21 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham credits Utah's student section, known as the MUSS, saying the team "feeds off of their emotion."

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Back in 2002, the Utah football program was not in very good shape.

The Utes lost six consecutive games in the middle of the season and limped home with a 5-6 record. Season attendance was 10,000 below capacity at Rice-Eccles Stadium — and worse in terms of actual fannies in the seats.

At the end of that year, Ron McBride was fired, Urban Meyer was hired and the Ute program was transformed. Within two years, the Utes played in a BCS bowl game and repeated the feat four years later.

That was also the year the Ute student section was transformed, although it didn't necessarily have much to do with the aforementioned changes in the football program.

That was the year, the MUSS was born.

The MUSS is an energetic band of 5,000 U. students, who sit (actually stand) in the southeast part of Rice-Eccles Stadium and give their unbridled support to the Utah football team.

It all began early in 2002 with a group of nine Utah students who started what was first called the Utah Football Fan Club. The club was started in conjunction with the Alumni Association under the guidance of Director of Alumni Relations John Fackler, a.k.a. the Godfather of the MUSS.

"We thought we might get maybe 300 students," said Fackler of their first-year efforts.

Instead, 800 showed up.

The next year, the group nearly doubled to 1,400, and in 2004 it doubled again to 2,800. Of course it didn't hurt that the Utes were winning, going 10-2 in 2003 and 12-0 in 2004, but much of the credit goes to Fackler and the energetic group of U. students.

Now the MUSS has 5,000 members and so much support, its numbers have been capped in order to leave a few seats for students who don't belong to the group.

"It's grown beyond our wildest dreams," said Fackler.

Although Meyer didn't start the group, he was a big help in building it up. He made a concerted effort to visit the dorms and various campus groups. He came up with the idea to have the team stand and gather in front of the MUSS after every game and sing the school fight song, "Utah Man," while the band played.

"I give Urban a lot of credit," said Fackler. "We knew we'd get the diehard fans, but we also wanted to get the social fans."

That's why there's more to the MUSS than the three hours spent at the stadium on six Saturdays during the fall.

It costs $30 to join the MUSS, and besides getting a guaranteed reserved seat for every home game, members get a specially designed T-shirt and enjoy a MUSS tailgate before every home game, where free food is provided.

Every year, the MUSS sends a "MUSS bus" — actually several buses — to one away game. Usually it's the UNLV or San Diego State trip, but this year, the MUSS bus went to Oregon.

By 2006, the MUSS membership had increased to 4,700, then declined slightly the next year due to a new ticket policy that limited guests before climbing to 5,000, where it has been for the last couple of years.

This year, the MUSS tickets were all gone by the first of August. Fackler believes the club could easily grow by another thousand or two, but for now the number is capped to allow some tickets for students who choose not to join the MUSS.

By now, you're probably asking where exactly did the group get its odd name? While some say it stands for "Mighty Utah Student Section," Ute fans know the MUSS name originally comes from the school fight song, which includes the line, "No other gang of college men dare meet us in the muss" — muss meaning "a state of disorder, confusion or chaos."

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