America's most stone-cold sober college town isn't likely to win any awards for throwing the wildest tailgating parties before BYU games.
Judging from the usual atmosphere in Provo leading up to kickoff, some might even wonder if a football game or a devotional is about to break out.
Not this morning.
And the Cougars have the Utes to thank or blame for what promises to be a charged-up atmosphere that might appear to be on caffeine. That's because Utah isn't just bringing its football team down from Salt Lake City. It's bringing the whole party.
Since Utah players and coaches have treated Provo like home-away-from-home lately, winning six of the past seven here, some Utes figured they would try doing the same for their fans headed to the game.
Crimson Club director Doug Knuth said his group's goal was "to find one central location where Ute fans can meet." Administrators from Provo High School might get razzed by Cougar faithful but their school, just across the street from BYU, will roll out the red carpet for Ute fans this morning.
Combine that with a riled-up BYU fan base that's pumped about the rivalry game, and Cougartown will not be lacking for electricity.
"Oh boy," said BYU sophomore Andrew Gilbert. "I think it's going to be insane."
Some thought he was just that earlier this week when he showed up to work on campus wearing a red shirt. It didn't have a U. logo, but he still got comments about it all day and we're not talking the "hey, nice new shirt" variety, either.
"I figured if I wore it on Monday, I'd be OK," he said. "Obviously that doesn't fly."
He'll fit in with the crowd today in red or blue.
One sign a big game is on hand: The Cougar Club's pregame lunch was sold out early and phone calls came in record numbers, according to a voice mail message. (Most of the campus has been dead this week due to Thanksgiving, but that's about to change.)
For other BYU partiers, expect Cougartown the pregame football fair held in the parking lot west of LaVell Edwards Stadium to be bursting with energy. It will feature fully invested shirts, giveaways, the marching band, scalpers and a slew of football-tossing fans hoping to win a prize (or scholarship). Nearby, the CougarCrazies, a group of enthusiastic students, will tailgate at a higher-than-usual level, no doubt.
Blue-clad supporters might do Jell-O salad instead of Jell-O shots, but the scene promises to be more wild than mild.
"It's a carnival kind of atmosphere, but not the same type of tailgating atmosphere most universities are accustomed to," said Tami Barber, a BYU Bookstore employee. "Tailgating is not like a really big thing down here."
"I didn't know they tailgated," the Crimson Club director joked.
How much partying using the liquid definition will take place at Provo High remains to be seen (or, more likely, unseen). Knuth expects rowdy but respectful behavior. And he pointed out that the Provo City School District prohibits alcohol, tobacco, firearms and open flames. Some BYU fans might ask them to prohibit Utes in the future.
"You do your best to contain and control," he said. "We want to live up to the rules as best we can."
All 450 parking spots and 650 plates for the hearty omelet, french toast, bacon and sausage breakfast sold out in a hurry. But Knuth said all Utes are invited to bring their grills or grub or footballs and come party with them.
Knuth said he'd love it if an airplane could fly over and snap an aerial shot of the crimson crowd in the midst of a sea of Cougar/Aggie blue.
"There's going to be one big red dot in the middle of Provo next to the stadium," he said. "That would be a cool picture."
Especially for the Utes if it was a postgame celebration picture.BYU fans, of course, would prefer if the photo was of a mass exodus of dejected visitors from up north in the fourth quarter.
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