HE WAS THERE THE NIGHT Bob Skousen went for 47 against UCLA, and when Scott Warner swept the place clean with 27 rebounds. He saw Jim McMahon throw his miracle pass and he saw someone throw a molotov cocktail one angry night at Colorado State. He was courtside for Danny Ainge's reknowned drive
against Notre Dame and had a front row seat for BYU's national championship football season.He was within spitting distance of Timo Saarelainen the night Saarelainen spat on an opposing player.
In the long history of BYU athletics, there isn't much Dave Schulthess hasn't seen. Seeing is part of the job description of a sports information director. You're the eyes, ears and sometimes mouth of the entire program.
You just don't get your name up in lights.
When Ladell Andersen, who coached six years, resigned, BYU held a press conference. The room was packed to the back wall. Setting up such extravaganzas always falls on the shoulders of the sports information director. But when Schulthess steps down after 38 years as BYU's SID, on August 31, he will simply lock the door and go home.
No press conference required.
He was in the business of setting them up, not starring in them.
Sports information isn't what you'd consider a glamor job, unless you get excited about doing stats on Sunday night. The object is to get as many athletes as possible, as often as possible, in the news.
When Schultess left Salt Lake City newspapering to become an SID, it wasn't much of a job at all. It was one most college administrators weren't exactly sure of in December, 1951. BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson hired Schulthess, insisting that he couldn't possibly fill 40 hours a week handling sports publicity alone. How much time could it take to do a box score?
Schulthess was assigned to the public relations staff as a sports specialist and given additional duties with a school alumni magazine and covering such things as conferences on campus.
He found in a hurry that being a publicist had its down side. The hours were worse than an obstetrician's.
Besides his regular duties, he was in charge of handling the massive LDS All-Church tournament and the state prep basketball tournament. Neither of those events fell under the auspices of BYU athletics, but they did fall into his lap.
He had discovered a way to overdose on sports long before ESPN was ever thought of.
The job had its perks, though. He got front row seats to everything.
Schulthess made his first visit to New York in 1966, the year the Cougars won the NIT for the second time. While there he arranged media interviews. The writers were impressed with the basketball team; they were really impressed with the cheerleaders. A New York World-Telegram columnist got so involved that he devoted an entire column to the subject, calling them "strong, eager young women of the West."
This was a publicity man's dream. Even the cheerleaders were getting good press.
Somewhere along the line sports got to be a monster at BYU, and Schulthess was in charge of feeding it. He eventually got rid of handling the All-Church and prep tourneys, but there were NCAA, NIT and conference tournaments to host.
Then came the 1984 national championship football season when everything exploded. Several writers a day were calling for interviews. Some made the trek out to Utah to see what Brother Brigham had wrought. "The floogates really opened," said Schulthess. "But it's like when you find a street full of dollar bills. You don't take time to think about it, you just get moving."
From a one-person staff in the beginnings, Schulthess' office has expanded to six full-time people. There are plenty of things for everyone to do. Aside from dealing with players, media, coaches and administrators, they also deal with John (Jane?) Q. Public. One afternoon a woman called and said, "Is this sports information? I just had a baby, and was wondering what kind of bra I should wear while jogging."
They get a little of everything in Sports Information.
There were the angry years when various schools protested against BYU on what they said were racial grounds. At Colorado State, in 1970, the molotov cocktail was thrown and a riot nearly ensued. "I felt physically ill," said Schulthess. "You didn't know what to do."
Other memories are much gentler: a forlorn basketball player from central Utah who sat in a New York hotel lobby complaining, "I can't find anything to do"; star player Kresimir Cosic leaving the darkened Marriott Center alone; Steve Trumbo gleefully buying baby clothes for children he hoped to have one day; a writer friend passing away on a warm Texas night, still at his typewriter.
Parts of the 38 years at BYU were bad, but most were good, says Schulthess. For all of it, he had a front row seat. It was one of the perks of the job.