The BYU ROC, or “Roar of Cougars” student section at the Marriott Center, features 5,000 of the wackiest college basketball fans in the nation.
With plenty of energy and a lot of public spotlight, it gives students a great opportunity to give back, and they are beginning to do just that.
The ROC section, in cooperation with BYUSA, began a program called “ROC Stars,” where college-aged fans with special needs sit in the front row of the student section at a BYU men’s basketball home game.
“We see the ROC Stars idea as a way to provide service to our community and fan base,” said Brian Fagan of BYU Athletic Marketing “(We can) share something we love — the BYU sports experience — with someone who otherwise may never get to experience it.”
McKay Wood, a 23-year-old Spanish Fork native with cerebral palsy, was the first-ever ROC Star at the St. Mary’s game on Feb. 1. BYU men’s basketball player Anson Winder surprised Wood at his friends’ apartment on Jan. 28 and invited him to the game. In addition to sitting front row, Wood was able to meet some of the team, shoot around on the court and received free BYU gear. He said he enjoyed the experience.
“It was awesome; I loved it,” Wood said. “My favorite part was either shooting on the floor or meeting Anson Winder or Tyler Haws.”
Students who joined Wood on the front row mentioned how rewarding it was to see him have a good time.
“McKay was awesome,” said pre-communications major Josh Brown. “It was a cool opportunity to sit with someone with so much energy.”
Riley Bray is a freshman who also joined Wood on the front row and said she looks forward to serving other ROC Stars in the future.
“Just knowing that we were able to do something so small and so insignificant but still make his whole day or month was awesome,” she said. “It made it all worth it, and I can’t wait to do it again.”
The idea was born as a part of BYUSA President Brandon Beck’s promise last fall to make the student section better. He said this idea really fits well with BYU’s uniqueness.
“It’s something that really fits with BYU’s culture,” he said. “A program like that could help define the ROC as something more than sports and help students reflect on what’s really important.”
This is the first year ROC Stars has been in existence. The ROC hopes to continue serving the community this way next season.
“Hopefully, as the ROC continues to invite people out to sit in the front row, we can provide some extra happiness for people who may really need it,” Fagan said.