At registration that year the lobbying began in earnest: join the football fan club for a nominal fee and receive a reserved seat, a t-shirt and tailgate party before the game.
Anything above 500 would be an improvement. They got 800.
Coach Ron McBride went 5-6 that season and was fired, making way for an unknown coach from Bowling Green named Urban Meyer. Meyer started talking up student involvement from the start and as if on a premonition that Utah would go 10-2 in his first season, registration for 2003 went to 1,400.
That was also the year the Utah Football Fan Club became the MUSS.
“Lest anyone think we had some great plan,” Fackler points out, “it all happened because Ed Larson said to Scott Hammer, ‘I like that word muss in the school song.’”
The old-fashioned word — Webster defines muss as “a confused conflict” — comes in the chorus of “Utah Man,” written in 1904:
We’re up to snuff, we never bluff, we’re game for any fuss.
No other gang of college men dare meet us in a muss.
Larson and Hammer proposed the name change at the next board meeting and it was done.
The transformation to Mighty Utah Student Section came later.
“Thank goodness there was a U in it,” says Fackler.
It all snowballed from there. Registration climbed to 2,800 in 2004 and after the Utes went 12-0 that fall it went to 3,000 in 2005, which was all the ticket office would allow. The hue and cry was so great that the cap was increased to 5,000. In 2010, on Coach Kyle Whittingham’s recommendation, 1,000 standing room only tickets were added, expanding the MUSS to 6,000.
All sorts of traditions have sprouted: the 3rd Down Jump, the False Start Scoreboard, the authentic Under Armour crimson red must-have MUSS t-shirts, the annual spring MUSS flag football game, the MUSS logo on the football helmets.
As for Fackler, he’s twice been named Outstanding Adviser in the country by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), due in no small measure to MUSS and, he is quick to point out, his invaluable assistant and MUSS coordinator Brynn Whitchurch. They might have won the award even more if not for CASE instituting the “Fackler rule” barring anyone being honored in consecutive years. In 2012 CASE bestowed its “Outstanding Tried and True Program” award to MUSS, proclaiming it among the very best student football sections in the nation.
“It’s changed student life up here,” says Fackler. “It’s no longer come to class, get in your car, go home. You just don’t hear people calling us a commuter campus that much anymore.”
Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
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