OREM — Before Utah Valley University played at Kentucky and Duke this past weekend, opposing coaches John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski each received the gift of a necktie.
It's something UVU coach Mark Pope has done in partnership with student Noel Lopez, a student entrepreneur and returned Mormon missionary who started a company that sells neckties representing countries and states, according to gouvu.com.
Wildcats' coach Calipari was pleased to receive the tie and tweeted about it.
"Mark Pope sent this over to me prior to the game last night and I thanked him," Calipari said in the Tweet. "This company was started by a Utah Valley student, which is a pretty neat thing. Let me congratulate Mark and his team on a well-played game last night."
Lopez, a junior in the Woodbury School of Business at UVU, served his mission in Cleveland, Ohio, and Montevideo, Uruguay. Near the end of his mission in Uruguay, he learned that missionaries were buying neckties with the colors of the country's flag and the national soccer team's logo, he told the Deseret News in 2016.
“I figured I could create a product where I could keep sharing that mission experience,” Lopez said in the article, “and create new conversations by designing a tie that has the little logo on it that catches people’s eyes so they can ask, ‘What is that logo?’”
After he returned home, Lopez launched a company in 2015 called The Town and Co. His uncle, Antonio Lopez, helped him fund the startup.
Pope recently saw a video featuring the product and reached out to Lopez. He pitched the idea of giving a necktie to the head coach of opposing teams on the Wolverines' 2017-18 schedule.
"Coach told me that there might be something we can do to promote your brand and at the same time, create some unity between himself and some of the coaches he would be playing against this season. He asked if I would be interested," Lopez told gouvu.com.
Lopez liked the idea. Calipari and Krzyzewski were the first recipients. While at Rupp Arena in Kentucky, ESPN's "SportsCenter" interviewed Lopez, he posted on Facebook.
"I'm thankful for the opportunity that coach (Pope) is giving me to get my brand out there," Lopez told gouvu.com. "Coach gets really excited about things and he brings a lot of good energy. I was like let's do this. ... I look forward to working with coach this year."