BYU’s athletic director wants BYU basketball fans to improve their sportmanship after angry fans threw objects on the game floor, showered referees with boos and shouted foul language during Saturday’s basketball match-up against St. Mary’s.
In a statement released via email Monday night, BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe said, “I love the passion and enthusiasm of our student section and appreciate the support our team receives from fans in the Marriott Center. I know Cougar fans were frustrated Saturday night, but we simply cannot engage in poor sportsmanship.”
Holmoe said that BYU fans’ goal should be for visiting teams and officials to leave BYU having been treated with respect.
“I greatly appreciate the majority of our fans who show good sportsmanship at each and every home game. This Thursday, against a great team from Gonzaga, I fully expect all our fans to show the same passionate yet respectful support that has made the Marriott Center such a storied place to play over the years,” he said.
The BYU student section was called for a technical foul in Saturday’s basketball game when objects were thrown on the court in opposition to some calls by the officials.
After a charging foul was called late in the first half, a few objects were thrown onto the court contesting the official’s ruling. The officials immediately went to the scorer’s table, and an announcement was made warning the fans that the next time anything is thrown onto the court, it would result in a technical foul against BYU.
Less than a minute into the second half, a blocking foul was called on freshman guard Matt Carlino. A tirade of boos echoed from the student section, accompanied with a paper object being thrown onto the hardwood floor. The officials remained true to their warning, and St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova made two technical free throws, and the Gaels retained possession of the ball. On that possession, Jorden Page hit a 3-pointer, resulting in a 5-point turnaround for the Gaels that came from the technical foul.
“I don’t necessarily feel that we were behind the team as much as we were against the refs,” said Sam Emery, a sophomore from Gilbert, Ariz., majoring in psychology. “That technical foul definitely caused a momentum swing.”
As the technical was called on the fans, a few BYU players stood up from the bench area and from the floor, attempting to quiet the crowd.
“I could tell that the players weren’t too happy as to how the fans were reacting,” Emery said. “They were waving them off, trying to get them to stop throwing stuff. The fans weren’t helping the players, that’s for sure.”
Near the end of the game, a chant came from the crowd saying “Worst refs ever,” and as the final buzzer sounded, a storm of objects flooded the court, accompanied with boos aimed at the officials.
“I’m a Cougar through and through, and I went to every single game last year and I’m camping out tonight,” said Mary Bennion, a sophomore from Medford, Ore., majoring in elementary education. “But I can definitely say that I wasn’t proud of the way that people were acting at the game. I think at BYU, we stand for something higher, and we should have lived up to that standard, and we didn’t.”
The fans’ behavior is in direct opposition to both the BYU and West Coast Conference (WCC) rules and regulations, as well as some NCAA rules.
“Every person, from fan to student-athlete, plays an important role in complying with NCAA rules,” the opening statement on the BYU Athletics Compliance page says. “BYU is held responsible by the NCAA for the actions of its boosters. If a booster commits a violation, BYU may be subject to penalties from the NCAA.”
The WCC handbook has also published some official rules and regulations of bad fan behavior in athletic contests, which consequences have the potential to go even farther than the actions taken in Saturday’s game.
“The officials shall be authorized to stop a game for a period of time or declare a game to be forfeited, after appropriate warnings, in the event crowd conditions deteriorate to an extent that the players, coaches or officials cannot function normally,” the handbook says on the topic of crowd control.
“I think for the most part, we have some of the best fans ever,” Emery said. “I love going to the Marriott Center for games. It’s a riot. But there’s no excuse for people to start throwing things on the court. Sportsmanship isn’t just about the poeple on the court. I was really disappointed in a lot of the students. It left a bad taste in my mouth.”
In November, President Stan Albrecht of Utah State University apologized to BYU after the Aggie fans presented some distasteful taunts and signs towards junior forward Brandon Davies. In that apology, it was mentioned that the fans “conducted themselves far beyond fair play and basic human decency.”