Bradley Pilkington didn’t leave LaVell Edwards Stadium until well after 1 a.m. the Sunday morning after BYU football’s upset win over Boise State on Oct. 19. Like many other BYU fans, Pilkington braved the freezing rain and frigid winds late into the night to cheer on the Cougars at their successful home game.
Despite the poor weather and late time, Pilkington said it’s just another part of being the best fans in the nation.
“It’s about being a part of the best student section in the nation,” Pilkington said. “I think we’ve just got some of the craziest fans in the nation.”
As vice president of the Roar of Cougars, more commonly known as the ROC, Pilkington said he’s been a lifelong fan of sports and wanted to be involved with BYU’s athletic programs.
“One of the reasons why I chose BYU was that it had bigger sports programs and I wanted to be involved with athletics,” Pilkington said. “I knew that being a part of the student section was one of those things that I wanted to do.
Pilkington decided to get involved with the ROC during his freshman year because of his love of sports. During his first year at BYU, he volunteered his time and passion as a member of the now-defunct Freshman ROC Board. He said his involvement with the ROC also helped him feel more connected to BYU.
“It’s my fourth year on the ROC Board,” Pilkington said. “I wanted to be involved with something that made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself and I feel connected to BYU.”
Being able to work as the vice president of the ROC is also where Pilkington met fellow board member and ROC president Jason Hulet. Hulet said that being a member of the ROC is not just about being present to cheer for the BYU athletes, but, in some cases, to actually sway the course of the game in favor of the Cougars.
Hulet recounted a memory of a home basketball game in 2016 where the ROC coordinated wearing hard hats and safety vests to mock a decision by Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak to pull out of a previously scheduled game, citing the safety concerns of Utah basketball players.
“We had kids showing up in safety vests and hard hats,” Hulet said. “Every foul, the entire student section chanted, ‘That’s not safe!’”
Hulet cited the ROC’s loud chanting and light-hearted teasing as part of the reason for BYU’s decisive win that night.
“It was hilarious, and you could tell it was getting to the coach and players,” Hulet said.
The efforts of the ROC haven’t gone unnoticed by BYU’s athletes. BYU women’s volleyball player Riley Lyman started her college athletic career playing for Idaho State University and later, Snow College. Lyman said the ROC has been a significant factor in setting BYU apart from her past schools.
“I’ve never been in a school that has supporters like the ROC. They’re so awesome,” Lyman said. “Coming every game, they’re so loud, and they make it so fun to play and just hype the whole place up.”
Visiting coaches have taken notice too. Pilkington said visiting coaches have to prepare their players for the ROC’s special brand of loud cheering.
“A lot of coaches in the nation for all sports comment on how loud it is when they traveled to BYU. They say it’s something that they have to prepare for beforehand,” Pilkington said. “Otherwise, their players are going to be in shock when they come and play. That’s something we take pride in.”
BYU women’s volleyball head coach Heather Olmstead said the ROC keeps her players energized as they compete against other teams.
“The ROC’s energy that they bring to the games is definitely contagious for our girls. When we come out and warm up, they’re already here,” Olmstead said. “We definitely appreciate the ROC.”
The ROC can create a fun atmosphere or even influence the course of a game, but it also creates a community where BYU fans can come together and celebrate BYU’s longstanding tradition of athletic excellence for all its sports programs.
“We’re there for all sports, not just football and basketball, but for what other schools would consider the smaller sports,” Pilkington said. “We have very dedicated fans who want to be at every single game, and when they’re at the game, they’re loud and they’re energetic. They bring the energy that gives that final edge.”