Wednesday night at the Spectrum, as it turns out, was all just a big miscommunication.
Utah State Athletics Director Scott Barnes will meet with student representatives next Tuesday to discuss the normally raucous student section's silent protest Wednesday night at the Smith Spectrum a cheer-less, chant-less stretch during the first few minutes of the game that overshadowed USU's 67-54 loss to Denver. The loss snapped the Aggies' 33-game home-court winning streak.
Going into the Denver game, Utah State students were already angered over a public letter of apology from USU President Stan Albrecht to BYU for what some perceived was the student section's over-the-top treatment of Cougars star Brandon Davies when BYU visited the Spectrum on Nov. 11. Davies was suspended last season for violating BYU's Honor Code. He was reinstated before the start of the season.
When students arrived for Wednesday's game, they were met by an usher who imposed restrictions on even some of their most basic ritual cheers, threatening them with ejection and revocation of their student IDs at the slightest misstep.
Many students left the game. The ones who stayed sat silently for the first three minutes, and when they did get involved, it wasn't with anywhere near the emotion and intensity the Spectrum student section has become famous for.
"It was a spur-of-the-moment thing," student representative Ryan Baylis said. "The letter of apology was already on our minds, but this was mostly because of the martial law they tried to implement. I just think there was miscommunication across the board."
Barnes said that the usher in question will not face discipline. Rather, he has been talked to and is being "coached up," according to the athletics director.
The original letter from Albrecht to BYU stemmed from vulgar chants directed at Davies during USU's season-opening win over the Cougars. And while Barnes said that eliminating the vulgarity has been a goal, he was quick to point out that it was mainly among a few individuals and not the student section as a whole.
Both sides said that they expect next week's meeting to be productive and that one of the best home-court advantages in the country should be back on track in time for USU's home game against Utah Valley on Tuesday night.
Barnes emphasized that the administration did not intentionally place any of the restrictions on the student body that sparked the brief protest.
"We have not changed any policies," Barnes said. "Unfortunately, one of the ushers went to the students and created standards we had no idea about. We didn't ask that individual to tell them that."
"We feel like we have the best student fan base in America," Barnes said. "We wanted to make sure that a few individuals that have crossed the line stayed in bounds. We want to take care of the bad actors. But that doesn't mean making wholesale changes."