Oklahoma conducts the Sooner Caravan. LSU stages the Tiger Tour. Tennessee launches the Big Orange Caravan.
For many major athletic programs around the country, having coaches and administrators meet the public during an annual spring or summer tour is standard practice. The concept is new to BYU, which is staging the Cougar Fan Fest this month in St. George, Spanish Fork and Sandy.
This is a good move for the school, connecting with fans and driving ticket sales in May. A few observations about how BYU is going about this innovation:
• Robert Anae is the obvious name that jumps out of the promotional material. The Cougars’ offensive coordinator is scheduled to join basketball coach Dave Rose, basketball player Tyler Haws and football players Kyle Van Noy and Taysom Hill on Saturday in St. George.
Anae is fulfilling the duties of his assistant head coach role in place of coach Bronco Mendenhall, who’s booked for Spanish Fork and Sandy next week. The experience is necessary for Anae if he ever hopes to become a head coach, and represents part of the career development opportunity that BYU administrators have created for him. That training included regularly scheduled media availability with Anae during spring practice.
Anae did not handle those sessions particularly well, while producing some memorable sound bites. He should be more relaxed in St. George, although I’d love to have a Cougar fan innocently ask Anae if he’s decided whether to call plays from the field or the press box this season. Special commendation to anyone whose conversation results in Anae’s responding, “What is the purpose of your question?”
• Having current athletes as part of the tour distinguishes BYU from other schools. Haws and Van Noy also are scheduled to appear May 21 in Spanish Fork, with Mendenhall and Rose. The next night’s stop in Sandy advertises Mendenhall “and more.”
• The past two years did not go well for quarterbacks Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson as returning starters and the subjects of BYU’s preseason promotion. So it is somewhat surprising that BYU would showcase Hill, coming off knee surgery and having started only two games.
In contrast, Haws is well established in the basketball program after two successful seasons (with a church mission in the middle). Van Noy is a BYU success story, having overcome off-field issues that delayed his enrollment and made himself into a top NFL prospect, while choosing to stay for his senior season.