Provo • On Saturday, BYU football found itself once again on a national platform, having the Cougars' home opener against Troy televised on ESPN in the late-night slot. And while the Cougars put up a dominating victory over the Trojans, it was the sidelines that caught the attention of viewers all over the nation.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake is known for his dance moves, busting out his Hawaiian inspired breakdowns after big wins, but the jitter bug bit more than just the fifth-year coach — it bounced around the rest of the coaching staff and players.
The ESPN cameras caught BYU executive coordinator of recruiting and player personnel Jasen Ah You and assistant equipment manager Billy Nixon having an extended dance break after a good play, and zoomed in on JuCo transfer Wes Wright pulling off some Jersey Shore-esque fist pumping.
“We’re going to turn up the notch on dancing even more now just because everyone’s giving us so much attention,” Sitake said. “I think I just want our guys to enjoy the moment and have fun with the game, and that’s for the coaches, too. … We’re just trying to keep our guys loose.”
During the week leading up to the Troy game, Sitake said he taught his players some dance moves, including the Cabbage Patch — some “old-school moves we did when I was younger,” Sitake said.
But the dance moves are meant for just the sidelines. Out on the field, Sitake expects his players to be focused in on the game at hand.
After scoring his first career touchdown against Troy, freshman tight end Isaac Rex broke out into dance (the Cabbage Patch) and, after handing the ball to teammate James Empey, high-fived an official in celebration.
“Obviously, I’m not a big dancer — I don’t dance that much,” Rex said. “So when I score, I freak out, I have no idea what to do, but I have to dance, obviously, because my head coach told me to. So I just decided to do the Cabbage Patch because my coach told me to. And then I get a million texts saying how bad of a dancer I am and how everyone hates my dancing. And I’m like ‘it’s not even my fault. I’m just listening to my coach and what he’s telling me to do.’”
The dancing has been pushed up to a higher level this season due to the current situation.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Cougars almost didn’t play. That, in and of itself, is enough reason for the Cougars to burst out into dance when they take the field each week, but there’s more to it.
So far, BYU has played both of its games in empty stadiums (which it will have to do again this Friday in LaVell Edwards Stadium against Louisiana Tech). On Sept. 22, Gov. Gary Herbert announced Orem and Provo would be bumped up to moderate, or orange, risk level due to the spike in coronavirus cases.
Without the energy from fans, the team has had to provide their own.
However, Sitake said the dancing on sidelines isn’t anything new in college football. It’s just gotten a brighter spotlight through the pandemic.
NO. 22 BYU VS. LOUISIANA TECH
At LaVell Edwards Stadium
When • Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • ESPN2
“We have a good group of young men and the energy that we have, they do that all the time,” Sitake said. “It’s been like that often, you know, on the sidelines. It’s just easier to notice it now because there’s no fans. When you look at a regular game, they usually go to fans or the reaction of the fans, whether it’s good or bad, and now there’s nothing out there. They only place they can go is to our sidelines or the other team’s sidelines."
If the virus spike doesn’t decrease, local and state governments could choose to continue the stricter restrictions, causing more BYU home games to be played without fans.
If that becomes that case, Rex believes the Cougars will continue to provide their own energy and cheer themselves on. It will feel like a scrimmage, but they will still have the same amount of energy, he said.
“A lot of guys are more hyped up because they’re excited for their teammates to be out there,” Rex said. “And playing football is playing football. We’re just excited to be out there and to be playing, honestly — a lot of schools are just sitting at home. We’re very fortunate that we’re playing football right now and we’re just going to bring our own juice. Whether there’s fans or not, we’re going to keep dancing, keep having fun, keep showing the world that BYU is a fun, energetic, but also a winning program.”