BYU defensive back Michael Shelton wasn’t supposed to talk to the media after the Cougars practiced on Tuesday night. No reporters asked for an interview with the fifth-year senior.
But after a couple of players who were requested were not available, BYU’s sports information staff pulled Shelton out of the locker room to talk to some media members — myself not included — who were still there.
My guess is BYU officials are probably wishing their people had found someone else.
When asked by Jared Lloyd of the Provo Daily Herald a rather innocuous question about why the Cougars have a better road record than home record this season, Shelton unleashed some pent-up frustration. That came after Shelton claimed to have forgotten who the Cougars are playing this week. So the group interview was off to a disingenuous start.
“I am going to give you an honest opinion,” he said. “I like playing on the road, just because, to me, I think that the atmosphere is a lot better than our atmosphere at home. I like playing at home, but sometimes our fans can be a downer and it brings us down. But I think we feed off the energy when we play away.”
Sean Walker of KSL.com tried to give Shelton an out by asking if he really liked to be hated during road games, but the cornerback didn’t take the parachute.
“That’s what I mean by feeding off of the energy at away stadiums and stuff like that,” he said. “Just feeding off that, and it gives us something to look forward to whereas when we’re home, we don’t get many cheers and we don’t get many boos. So it is like, ‘what are you really playing for?’ And stuff like that.”
My take: It was refreshing to hear a student-athlete speak his mind. Shelton, one of the friendliest players on the team, has never turned down an interview request in the five seasons he’s been in Provo. That deserves respect.
But he’s also one of the most emotional players on the team, and he let those emotions get the best of him. It’s never a good look to criticize the fans who invest good money and time into the program, especially after a loss.
A subtle dig at the thousands of fans — and a large portion of the ROC — who stayed away on a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon in Provo may have been warranted.
But complaining about the atmosphere when the home team gave fans precious little to get excited about for the third time in four home games? That’s uncalled for. Shelton’s timing couldn’t have been worse.
Rounding Them Up
In case you missed them, here are some of the stories, player profiles and columns The Tribune has brought to you this past week:
• BYU linebacker Riggs Powell won’t take no for an answer. Cut at least three times, the walk-on is now the Cougars’ starting flash linebacker, filling in for Zayne Anderson. The walk-on shared his story with me, and even let a photographer show up at his place of employment to snap a few photos of him at work. Trib
• Tribune columnist Gordon Monson is losing faith that Kalani Sitake can get the BYU football program turned around. The coach is 17-17 overall. Trib
• Why can’t the Cougars piece together back-to-back wins? Are they overconfident after a win? They say they aren’t, but they are a woeful 1-6 in games following wins the past two seasons. That’s not good. Trib
• My analysis of the 7-6 loss to Northern Illinois focused on the Cougars’ inability to run the football and how the offensive line didn’t get the job done. Trib
• Butch Pau’u hasn’t been effective, largely due to a fractured hand, and Zayne Anderson is out for the season with a shoulder injury. BYU’s linebacking corps isn’t what we thought it would be, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Coaches have been creative, and guys such as Isaiah Kaufusi and Riggs Powell have stepped up. Trib
Views from elsewhere
• Boise State coach Bryan Harsin gets a $10,000 bonus for beating BYU in Boise and $15,000 for winning in Provo, but isn’t quite ready to refer to the Cougars as rivals. Yeah, right. Two of the top three crowds in Albertsons Stadium history were for BYU games (2012 and 2014). Statesman
Before Shelton spouted off Tuesday, BYU coach Kalani Sitake was asked about the relatively low turnout for Saturday’s game. Announced attendance was around 51,000, but actual attendance was probably closer to 40,000.
“I love the fans. I appreciate everything. I mean, we have great support. And we just need to do better on the field. I would like to see all of our fans be happy,” Sitake said. “I am disappointed that we haven’t had the success at home that we need to, and I am looking forward to changing that. So, I am not really concerned about the numbers. I know we have some great support out there. We see it at away games and home games. My job is to make all the fans happy. And so, I aim to do that. I love the challenge. That’s my job and I accept it. I understand the frustration is part of it, because they care. Our fans really care. And I love the passion they have for the game, and the passion they have for this team, and I look forward to making sure they have good moments.”
• BYU defensive back and special teams standout Gavin Fowler is one of 69 players nominated from around the country for the 2018 Burlsworth Trophy. The award is given to the most outstanding football player in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FCS) who began his career as a walk-on. A senior, Fowler has been BYU’s holder the past two seasons and has also played on the kickoff and punt cover teams.
• BYU’s men’s basketball team tunes up for Tuesday’s season-opening showdown at No. 7 Nevada with a final exhibition game against Westminster College on Thursday night at the Marriott Center. Freshman forward Kolby Lee is expected to play after missing the 92-71 win over Saint Martin’s last week with a sore foot.
• BYU’s women’s soccer team clinched the West Coast Conference’s automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament with a 2-0 upset win over No. 6 Santa Clara on Saturday at South Field in Provo. The Cougars (12-4-1, 7-1 WCC) play at Loyola Marymount this Saturday and will learn their NCAA Tournament seed and destination on Sunday during the Selection Show.
• BYU golfer Peter Kuest tied the lowest three-round score in school history, a 16-under-par 197, to win the Visit Stockton Pacific Invitational golf tournament last week. It was Kuest’s second victory of the season. The Cougars placed second as a team.
• BYU’s No. 1-ranked women’s volleyball team (22-0, 12-0 WCC) will host second-place San Diego on Friday at the Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars probably need to finish running the table to get a top four seed for the NCAA Tournament and the right to host first and second-weekend matches.