Cougar Canyon, BYU football’s newly enhanced pre-game experience, creates more than energy before games — it fosters a sense of belonging and community among fans. The changes were made to provide Cougar fans with a way to celebrate BYU, win or lose.
Located directly west of LaVell Edwards Stadium on Canyon Road, Cougar Canyon festivities begin three and a half hours before kickoff. Among the festivities, fans can enjoy local food trucks, live music, games and receive the autographs of renowned BYU alumni and athletes.
David Almodova, BYU assistant athletic director and director of marketing and promotions, said the changes were made to give fans the chance to come to games earlier and be a part of college football game day.
“It’s creating an environment and an atmosphere that you want to be a part of,” Almodova said. “For the team to see so many people gather together to greet them is a good start to the game.”
These changes are not just impacting fans’ experiences, but the football players as well.
BYU defensive lineman Khyris Tonga added that Cougar Canyon gets fans more hyped up for games. He said it’s exciting for people to see the team as they walk in and that it’s a cool experience for the team.
In the past it was hard for families to see their players before they entered the stadium.
The tradition of the “cougar walk” has been a long-standing experience where the team would greet fans on its way into the stadium. The location of this historic walk has been moved and now allows the football team to more easily greet fans and their families on their way into the stadium, giving a designated area for the players’ families to stand and greet them as they walk through.
“Usually we don’t get to see our families until after the game, so it was super cool to get to see my family before. It really is special and, it makes a big difference,” Tonga said.
Tailgating is a new aspect BYU is trying to add to the pre-game experience. BYU has partnered with an outside company called The Tailgate Guys for the 2019 season. Through this company, BYU fans can select different options, including tents, food and chairs to host family and friends before the game.
Scott Higbee, an Oklahoma native who currently lives in New York, flew in for BYU’s game against USC on Sept. 14. Higbee said his tailgating tent was full of smiles, good food and friends from out of state.
“I am from the south, and this is the best way to spend a Saturday,” Higbee said. “Seeing friends and family and cheering on the Cougs.”
Cougar Canyon and the tailgating experience helps BYU football revolve around more than just the outcome of the game. It’s about keeping spirits high regardless of the final score.
These changes have started to build more of a sense of community prior to the game, expanding the love and energy beyond the boundaries of LaVell Edwards Stadium.