Pity poor Steve Sarkisian. He may win today, he may not. But it sounds like he is for sure going to miss one heck of a halftime show.
“Sark,” as he was known back in the mid-1990s in Provo, is now the head coach at Washington. He just happens to be in town as the Huskies are set to face off against his old school in the midst of what is a monumental event.
No, it’s not BYU’s first game as an independent. Wait ’til next year for that party.
But the Cougars are doing a big push to raise money for scholarship endowments. It’s a program that many colleges have adopted based on the model developed and perfected by Stanford.
BYU officials explain that this approach mirrors the concept of putting quality, successful teams on the fields of play.
And, in fact, the two may go hand-in-hand. Cougar coaches and staff members point out that such a program would free up money to be used elsewhere in the department.
A full-ride athletic scholarship at BYU requires an original donation of a quarter of a million dollars.
To begin to raise funds of that magnitude, BYU is bringing back an incredible list of former quarterbacks, including eight of the All-Americans who wore the blue-and-white (of whatever shade) at that position.
Some former signal-callers, like broadcaster Blaine Fowler, are around the program regularly. Others haven’t been in the neighborhood in a long time.
Leading that list is Jim McMahon. There were doubts about the reputed “rebel” coming back to his roots, but come back he did, garbed in his own style as he joined his peers at the front table prior to the beginning of Friday’s golf event.
One of the most significant points delivered during the opening remarks by coach LaVell Edwards was that McMahon had committed to him to finally complete his degree.
“He has 10 more credits to get that done,” the coach said. “Once he does, he can get in the Hall of Fame and wherever else he belongs around here.”
Former Cougar quarterback Gifford Nielsen, one of the original greats at the position for BYU, orchestrated getting everyone together, along with associate athletic director Brian Santiago.
A major celebration is planned for today during halftime.
Sarkisian originally quipped that if his team’s ahead three touchdowns, he’ll come out for the photo op. But he’s since played it even safer, saying he respectfully has to decline the chance.
He owes it to his second-year team to be in the locker room with them, no matter the adjustments that need to be made before the second half.
Sark said he would get wistful Friday during a walk-through at LaVell Edwards Stadium, and perhaps before kickoff.
Too bad it just wouldn’t be right for him to come back as one of the guys.
“It’s going to be a huge event, a very big deal to the BYU family,” said national championship quarterback Robbie Bosco, now a fundraising specialist for the athletic department.
“When you talk about BYU athletics, the topic that always gets mentioned is the quarterbacks. This is going to be almost a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Bosco was around in the days of Marc Wilson, McMahon and Steve Young — he watched Wilson play on TV while growing up in the Sacramento, Calif. area. He was a freshman when Jim was a senior; he backed up Young.
“They set the stage for what the quarterback system was, and what it is today,” said Bosco, also a former assistant coach.
The quarterbacks want to raise enough for four scholarships (for the quarterback spot, naturally) during this event, but much more is planned for the future, according to Nielsen.
“This isn’t going to be a one-time stop,” he said. “I don’t know what form future events might take, but we plan to come back with some creative ideas to achieve our goals and vision.”
Aside from funding scholarships, Nielsen said the ultimate hope was to reach out to all of the 125 quarterbacks who have suited up for the Cougars.
“We want to connect with everybody who played here,” he said, with the added benefit of thus providing a model for those who competed at other positions to do the same.
Well, clearly they’re tugging on heartstrings here, bringing all these guys back. They want those memories associated with the olden days to spark a reach for the checkbook, by those who may have the cash to share now after a generation or two.
There was the golf meet at Riverside Country Club near the football stadium, plus a lot of signed mementos to be auctioned during a banquet last night, including five sports adventures involving one of the honorees, everything from golf outings to hunting excursions.
McMahon and an associate contributed a motorcycle, and complete sets of the All-American jerseys, signed helmets and other memorabilia were set to go on the block as well. Virgil Carter will light the “Y” and McMahon is expected to carry out the alumni flag before the game.
They hope for BYU to have a big day today, in the season opener in front of a sell-out crowd. The bitter irony would be if Sark succeeds, and his team’s play keeps fans from giving.
And for those who aren’t the “whales” BYU is trying to reel in, the school’s athletics fundraising arm is going to strap on a big ol’ No. 1 foam finger and point the way to some really cool nostalgia during halftime.
As Greg Wrubell, the radio voice of BYU sports, posted on his Twitter account: “Full-on goosebump alert will be in full effect.”