These fans consider themselves game-changers. They’re the 12th player—the edge that BYU sports teams need to earn that W, no matter the sport or the opponent. The ROC, short for Roar of Cougars, is BYU’s rambunctious student section. And they’re good at what they do. In the 2017–18 basketball season, BYU had the best free-throw-defense ranking in the nation, thanks—at least in part—to a raucous student section and their menacing squad of giant poster heads. But the fandom goes beyond buckets, as ROC president Zachary S. Hosman (’19) and hype captain Bradley J. Pilkington (’21) explain.
Claiming a Spot
Days before the game, the buzz is tangible around the Marriott Center or LaVell Edwards Stadium. Out of tradition and necessity, the ROC starts pitching tents as early as Monday morning at 12 a.m. to claim coveted cheering spots closest to the court or field for a Saturday game. Groups of friends keep their place in line by rotating through in shifts to allow for showers, classes, and food breaks. It’s one of the best ROC traditions—rain, snow, or shine—according to Hosman. “At those cold basketball games, you think it’s just going to be absolutely miserable, but it’s really not,” he says. “You’re with friends, and you’re running on energy and hype for the game, and it makes the entire experience so much more.”
Fueling Up for the Game
Gameday starts with a barbecue-filled ROC tailgate party, complete with a signature beverage—the George Randall. The fizzy drink with hints of lime, vanilla, and cherry is an essential part of any ROC party. “I’m not allowed to say what’s in the drink, but it’s a special drink that we have—obviously nonalcoholic,” Pilkington says, laughing.
Well before the national anthem is sung, the ROC section gets pumped up by singing along to a rap anthem, with hands on each other’s shoulders, swaying back and forth to the beat. “It’s really cool. Everybody’s feeling that ‘hype-ness,’” Pilkington says. “That’s something I know that the football team has said they love to see the student section doing.”
The Rowdy, Rowdy ROC
Clapping to the beat of Cosmo’s progressively quickening drum in the fourth quarter or distracting opposing free-throw shooters with Flappy—an inflatable “that flaps around like crazy” while ROC students imitate it—is all in a day’s work for the ROC. “It’s outrageously loud at any game that you go to for any sport,” Pilkington says. One of the loudest times is when the ROC collectively unfurls a massive Cougar flag over the heads of hundreds of ROC-ers.
At basketball games, when the opposing team shoots free throws facing the student section, ROC members throw up distracting meme and emoji cutouts of anyone from Dwight Schrute to LeBron James.
What truly distinguishes the ROC experience for Pilkington is the unity it brings to BYU: “I feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself, and that brings with it a lot of school spirit.”