Story behind BYU’s ‘Woosh! Kevin’ chant at basketball games

A collective “Woosh! Kevin” echoes throughout the Marriott Center after every made free throw for the Cougars during BYU basketball home games.

From his seat behind media row, BYU president Kevin J Worthen smiles and gives two thumbs up to the ROC, the dedicated student section behind the chant.

Many college student sections cry out a “woosh” after made free throws, but BYU’s wrinkle is unique. The tradition of adding the university president’s first name started with Worthen’s predecessor, Cecil O. Samuelson, and continues today. Another BYU wrinkle is holding up the sign-language “Y” while the shooter is at the line, before pointing at President Worthen as part of the cheer.

President Cecil O. Samuelson gives the ROC a thumbs up after a made free throw and ensuing “Whoosh! Cecil.” (Whitnie Soelberg)

“This is a fun tradition that shows just how creative the ROC can be,” President Worthen said. “I have to admit that at first it felt a little strange to hear my name called out. It took a little getting used to hearing my name at each game.”

The chant represents the broader unity of BYU students and fans, both in the Marriott Center and at games around the country.

“What I do think is a little strange is when I’m watching our away games and ‘Woosh Kevin’ appears on the TV screen. I always wonder if people have any idea what it means,” President Worthen said.

Road games have become a valuable asset for BYU, with blue-clad crowds prevalent wherever the Cougars play. One such game was when the men’s basketball team dismantled then-No. 12 Oregon 81-49 in Portland on Nov. 16. Several BYU players and coaches praised the turnout from dedicated fans after the game.

Beyond “Woosh! Kevin,” other chants add to the enthusiasm of BYU fans supporting their team on the road.

“I do remember the ‘B-Y-U’ and ‘Let’s go Cougars’ chants at the end of each game,” said Justin Idiart, who attended road games at Oregon and San Francisco. “It’s always louder than the home team’s fan base. San Francisco was a nail-biter at the end, and our teenage Cougar fans were behind the San Francisco bench and holding their own against the boisterous home fans during the game and after. Road games are always good for making memories with other BYU fans.”

While “Woosh! Kevin” and other chants have become hallmarks of BYU sporting events, the creativity of BYU fans necessitates a learning curve for some fans.

“I heard the ‘Woosh Kevin’ chant when I was in Provo but could not understand it and had to have other fans explain it to me,” Damian Idiart said.

President Worthen is grateful for all BYU fans who support the school’s basketball teams, regardless of where they are or how many chants they know.

“I always like winning, let’s start there, but I also enjoy the enthusiasm of the ROC,” he said. “How can you not smile, hearing our students welcome the visiting players with ‘Hi Joe,’ or whatever the player’s name might be. I also admire the creativity of our students in supporting our team without insulting anyone on the other team personally. This is what makes basketball fun for me.”

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