By SETH LEWIS
Yes, even BYU football is Y2K ready.
Determined to work the bugs out of a color scheme that wouldn’t sell and a league that couldn’t either, the Cougars have suddenly made change popular in metronome-consistent Provo.
Ask the players about it and most seem to agree: It’s about time.
“It’s a new millennium,” backup quarterback Charlie Peterson said.
Translation: Time to act like it.
And BYU has new looks all around. Here’s a glance at what you might have missed over the summer and what you can look forward to seeing at Tuesday’s 6 p.m. scrimmage at Cougar Stadium:
It all started in Alabama. BYU President Merrill J. Bateman was impressed by the sea of red he saw among Crimson Tide fans at last year’s game against BYU.
But in Provo? Fans wearing Cougar blue? No way. Not as long as BYU stuck to its traditional light blue.
Thus, the change earlier this month. The university introduced meaner logos and futuristic uniforms that feature a deeper — ahem, more sellable — blue with a tan accent.
“They look smooth,” Peterson said. “All the players love them.”
Well, almost all.
“I think the whites (road jerseys) are beautiful,” said Byron Frisch, an all-WAC selection and BYU’s only returning defensive lineman. “The purples (home jerseys) are a little too purple.”
Most players just shrug off all the attention about the uniforms. Big deal, they say.
“Football is football,” starting quarterback Kevin Feterik said. “I don’t care what the color is. Give me a uniform and I’ll play.”
“Unis look nice on picture day,” Frisch said, “but they don’t make a difference on game day.”
Maybe not, but Peterson still likes to think they’re a good omen.
“It’s something new, something different,” he said. “Kind of like the new Broncos uniforms that came out the other year that kind of blew people away. They went on to win the Super Bowl, so hopefully that’s a sign of things to come for us.”
After three years of vainly trying to breed rivalries with the likes of Rice, TCU and other nobodies in the unwieldy 16-team Western Athletic Conference, BYU pulled out to join the original WAC teams in the new Mountain West Conference.
WAC play was getting stale and the classic grudge matches BYU once shared with Colorado State, Wyoming, Air Force and others were starting to cool.
“That’s who we grew up playing with,” BYU offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. “The rivalries are there. There’s a lot more enthusiasm for games. There’s nothing wrong with the other teams, but there wasn’t that history tied to it.”
FRESHMEN WITH FUTURE
For once, a BYU starting quarterback can breathe easy. Feterik’s job is not up for grabs.
It’s the battle of the backups that’s been the story of summer practice.
“It’s a fight,” Peterson said. “Every practice counts.”
Peterson looked like the leader coming out of a strong showing in spring practice. But true-freshmen Bret Engemann and Matt Berry, with their impressive size and arm strength, have given sophomores Peterson and Brandon Doman some stiff competition.
“Doman and Peterson probably have the advantage because they’re a little older,” Chow said.
Either way, BYU isn’t in any kind of hurry to name No. 2.
“We don’t have to decide that because (Feterik) is healthy,” Chow said.
But how do you remedy the loss of running backs Ronnie Jenkins and Junior Mahe, who both left the university within the past year after investigations by the Honor Code Office?
Jaron Dabney, the 1997 WAC Freshman of the Year after averaging 6.2 yards per carry, is back in school. And at wide receiver, junior-college transfer Jonathan Pittman has been giving the defensive backs — including all-WAC cornerback Brian Gray — fits during summer practice.
New faces. New changes. Just in time.