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Debunking the mystery of BYU: School isn't weird or cultish, just into clean living

JAKE TROTTER Modified: August 31, 2009 at 1:44 pm •  Published: August 29, 2009
uot;It’s a dated concept. The students look similar to ones you’d seen in Norman or Stillwater. It’s not what they expected.”

Like the school, BYU’s football program is also unique.

Friday night before the game, while OU’s players eat together and go back to relax at the hotel, BYU’s players will be holding a spiritual fireside chat with members of a local LDS congregation.

"It’s part of their preparation for the game,” Brinkerhoff said. "Going to church and being spiritually fed.”

While it’s rare for college football players to be married, roughly one-third of BYU’s players are. And about four of five Cougar players leave the team for their missions, creating a turnover of about 40 players a year due to graduation and missions.

"Where it hurts the program is that it takes a lot of skill guys a year, year-and-a-half to get back where they were,” said Deseret News (Salt Lake City) sports writer Dick Harmon, who has covered BYU football for the last 35 years. "Sometimes it helps the linemen because they come back more mature.

"But if it was a great advantage, coaches at other schools would be encouraging their LDS kids to take missions.”

BYU faces another distinct challenge in recruiting. Because of its strict honor code, which extends to forbidding mixed gender overnight camping trips and men’s facial hair beyond mustaches, BYU’s recruiting base is largely LDS prospects in Utah and along the west coast.

"Their primary approach is to identify the very best LDS players, who have talent and who can abide the rules that they have,” Harmon said. "But they’ll go after anybody from any background as long as they can come in and live by the honor code.”

None of that, however, has prevented BYU from being one of the most successful programs over the last three decades. Not only are the Cougars the last school from a non-BCS conference (excluding Notre Dame) to win the national championship (1984), only Florida, Boise State, OU, USC and Ohio State have accumulated more victories over the last three years.

That sustained success has created a fervent fan base spanning the world. Even though Provo is 1,200 miles away from Arlington, Texas, at least 15,000 BYU fans are expected to attend the OU game.

"BYU football has like a spiritual following,” Brule said. "We’re as passionate as any other fans.”

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