The Teams Behind the Team

Fans converge on LaVell Edwards Stadium and tune in to watch the playmakers on the field, but game day wouldn’t be game day without the special teams behind the scenes, from the field painters to the stand sweepers.


Jonathan G. Quist (BS ’92) consistently puts up big numbers all over the field—and yet he’s never had a single mention on ESPN. But give Quist and his crew three days, 70 gallons of paint, and the linear precision of a rope line, and they can turn a patch of turf into a perfectly proportional football field.

Or how about the snaps taken each game by BYU’s Jaren S. Wilkey (BA ’01)? During an average home game, the BYU Photo manager quietly gets about 3,800, capturing iconic images and sending an almost instantaneous photo stream to media and fans worldwide.

Quist and Wilkey are just two of more than 2,000 BYU employees, students, vendors, and volunteers who work on and off the field to make LaVell Edwards Stadium one of the country’s premier athletic venues. In the days before each home game, these special teams coordinate logistics, rehearse, choreograph, and prepare for the competition, the national spotlight, and the needs and expectations of 64,000 local fans plus millions watching and listening from afar.

Here’s BYU Magazine’s tribute to the TV talkers, the tuba toters, the helmet stripers, the bleacher blasters, the ticket takers, the Cougar Tail makers, the T-shirt flingers, and the sod and seed slingers. Last October, seven photographers from BYU Magazine and BYU Photo captured the work of these behind-the-scenes players in 20,220 images, throwing a long-overdue bucket of ice-cold Powerade directly on the shoulders of these teams behind the team.

Game Week

Wednesday, 10:12 a.m.

First Huddle: Counting down to the Saturday kickoff, team leaders from athletics to broadcasting to concessions huddle together Wednesday morning to coordinate the game. Senior associate athletic director Brian S. Santiago (MBA ’01) leads the group in three-bangers—efficient three-clap bursts of applause—to credit team members who go the extra yard. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Thursday, 9:48 a.m.

Clear Views Above: Daniel E. Curtis’s (’16) specialty custodial crew cleans anything that can’t be reached with a ladder—like the windows of the press box. Washing all of the loge windows can take a crew of eight people four days. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Thursday, 2:50 p.m.

Line Man: Jonathan G. Quist (BS ’92) consistently puts up big numbers all over the field. Give him and his crew three days, 70 gallons of paint, and the linear precision of a rope line, and they can turn a patch of turf into a perfectly proportional football field. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Thursday, 3:58 p.m.

Precision Practice: Crossing Abbey Road—make that Canyon Road—sousaphoners Samuel H. Schiess (’18) and Laurie J. Rackham (’18) quick- step to a Thursday rehearsal for their Beatles halftime show. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Friday, 10:20 a.m.

Heads Up: Equipment managers use a hair dryer to remove battle-damaged stripes and stickers from helmets. The team sets up the locker room and stocks each player’s locker with a uniform, shoulder pads, and cleats. Photo by Mark Philbrick.

Friday, 5:22 p.m.

Better Than Turnovers: When the 18-inch maple-glazed Cougar Tail debuted at a football game seven years ago, 20 dozen sold out immediately and hungry Cougars roared for more. To meet demand, BYU’s Culinary Support Center (CSC) now cooks up 5,000 for each game. Photo by Becky Leung.

Friday, 5:25 p.m.

Sweet Sugar: Food-service employees start mixing colossal vats of sweet dough 36 hours before kickoff. The family-sized treat—three times the length of a normal maple bar—requires a lot of space to mix, raise, roll out, cut, fry, and frost. Photo by Becky Leung.

Friday, 6:14 p.m.

Twist on the Tail: But the creativity and calorie count don’t stop there. To make a “Brat Tail,” CSC head M. Shane McEwen (BS ’80) explains that they take a lightly frosted Cougar Tail, cut it in half, and add a bratwurst. “It’s like, ooh, sausage and pancakes,” he says. Photo by Becky Leung.

Friday, 7:36 p.m.

Starting the Lineup: Two days before the big game, superfan Drew Scholl and 10 to 15 of his buddies are the first in line outside the stadium. Outfitted with cots, an Xbox, a projector, and plenty of food, they take turns camping, using an online spreadsheet to make sure no one misses class. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.


Saturday, 3:14 p.m.

Lofty Work: Workers protect their fingers with duct tape while they fill balloons in preparation for the game. Photo by Bradley Slade.

Saturday, 3:25 p.m.

Lofty Work: With a catchy playlist and duct-tape-protected fingers, 13 workers fill 5,000 blue and white helium balloons in about four hours. Photo by Bradley Slade.

Saturday, 3:34 p.m.

Presidential Arrangements: Toting orchids, gladioli, and yellow roses, student florists Jessenia R. Pankratz (’16), left, and Hailey E. Zimmerman (’18) deliver tropical-themed bouquets to the President’s Loge, where special guests of the university will watch the game. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Saturday, 4:07 p.m.

On Bronco's Wavelength: Headset coordinator Kenneth E. Goepfert (BS ’07) arrives five hours before kickoff to set the frequencies for each headset, test belt packs, and configure field equipment, making sure that coaches can communicate during the game. The wireless system uses encrypted audio to prevent anyone but Goepfert from listening in. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Saturday, 4:46 p.m.

Level Play: To ensure that the uprights are perfectly upright, grounds crew employees Benjamin S. Hales (’15) and Lauren J. Escobedo (’16) throw ropes over the crossbar while Naivasha H. Burrows (’16) uses the bleachers as a guide. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Saturday, 5:01 p.m.

Training Wheels: Thomas J. Van Vliet (’15) and a team of athletic trainers roll out everything needed to prevent and treat game injuries—from stationary bikes to taping stations to ice and 10-gallon Powerade coolers. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Saturday, 5:13 p.m.

Fan Food: On a typical game day, more than 1,000 concessions workers sell 5,600 hot dogs and 18,000 water bottles. Volunteers man the booths to raise funds for high school sports teams and other groups. B. Arianna Mueller (’16) takes inventory at each stand, monitors food temperature and quality, and tallies up the profits for the groups at the end of the game. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.


Saturday, 5:36 p.m.

Makeup and Mic Up: Makeup artist Marren Bailey Copeland (BA ’07) puts game faces on BYUtv sports anchors Spencer K. Linton (BA ’07), left, and Brian V. Logan (BA ’11) as audio assistant Christian A. Lopez (’17) outfits them with transmitters and microphones. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Saturday, 5:48 p.m.

Band of Brothers (and Sisters): The Cougar Marching Band has been providing the musical score for games since 1908. The band arrives two-and-a-half hours before kickoff to don uniforms, gloves, and plumes. Then, for the next five hours, the band rehearses on Helaman Field, marches in a halftime show, shares pregame and postgame concerts at the cougar statue, and performs in hospitality tents and during game breaks. Photo by Becky Leung.

Saturday, 5:56 p.m.

Finishing Touches: Cougarettes Tori Markus Gee (’15), left, and Hannah Jackson Stewart (’16) make final preparations before gathering poms and cheering on the sidelines. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

D-Fence: Sports marketing intern Jace P. Stringham (’16) sets up A-frame ads along the sidelines, disperses signs in the ROC student section, and coordinates promotions with the cheerleaders and Cosmo throughout the game. Photo by Meagan Larsen

Saturday, 6:40 p.m.

Pyramid Scheme: The 70-student Spirit Squad includes the Cheer Squad (pictured), the Cougarettes, and Team Cosmo. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

8:16 p.m.

Cue Cosmo: Although this cool cat exudes spontaneity, Cosmo is willing to take pointers from his BYU colleagues, including marketing guru David Almodova, left. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Saturday, 8:21 p.m.

Game Time: After countless hours of prep, it's time to play. Fireworks pop, the band and balloons both form Ys, and fans rise as players and coaches enter the field. Photo by Mark Philbrick.

KICKOFF at 8:26 p.m.

Saturday, 8:21 p.m.

The Brigham Boomer: After each BYU score, ROTC cadets fire a blank round from a vintage World War II M120 75 mm howitzer cannon that’s named after George Q. Cannon of Church-history fame. After firing the cannon, the cadets drop to do push-ups for each BYU point scored. Photo by Bradley Slade.

Saturday, 8:28 p.m.

View from the Top: “It is kind of like a . . . beehive with all the activity going on behind the scenes,” says David M. Sexton (BS ’15), who observes it all from the press-box roof. One of 225 event-staff ushers, Sexton patrols the roof for unauthorized visitors. Photo by Patrick Croskrey.


Saturday 8:52 p.m.

Fast Food: Gatling gun operator David Eberhard can propel T-shirts all the way to the cheap seats with this CO2-powered launcher. The rotating gun can also send free sandwiches, wraps, and doughnuts to eager fans. Photo by Patrick Croskrey.


Saturday, 9:21 p.m.

Marching to the Beat of Another Drummer: For the halftime show, percussion arrangers upped the degree of difficulty for the drum line. In a fast-moving flurry, the drummers not only played the instruments of the performers on either side of them but they did it blindfolded. Photo by Patrick Croskrey.

Saturday, 9:25 p.m.

Heroes on Hand: Volunteer BYU EMTs, like Garrett G. Hagler (’16), front, team with Provo paramedics throughout the stadium to assist the 64,000 animated fans with a variety of afflictions from hyperventilation to heart attacks. Photo by Meagan Larsen.

Saturday, 9:53 p.m.

TD for All to See: University photographer Mark A. Philbrick (BA ’75, MEd ’78), above, has shot more than 400 games over the last 40 years. After capturing a highlight, he uploads it wirelessly so that Riana Culp Wright (’16), (see image below), seated in the press box, can send photos to BYU’s social-media accounts and other media sources. Photo by Bradley Slade.

Saturday, 10:26 p.m.

Parking Lot View: From the bay of BYU Broadcasting’s production truck, director Russell T. Merrill (BA ’81, MPA ’00), center, live switches between 16 manned and robotic cameras as line producer Caitlin Jenne King (BA ’09), front, cues graphics and coordinates on-camera talent. When ESPN carries a game, BYUtv’s 65-member crew creates its own side-by-side product for rebroadcast. Photo by Meagan Larsen.

Saturday, 10:34 p.m.

TD for All to See: Receiving images from university photographer Mark A. Philbrick (BA ’75, MEd ’78), (see above photo), Riana Culp Wright (’16), seated in the press box, can send them along to BYU’s social-media accounts and other media sources. Photo by Patrick Croskrey.

Saturday, 11:34 p.m.

Uplifting Work: Elevator operator Jade P. Swayne (’15) has a smile for guests, media members, and coaches as she transports them to loge and press-box seating. Swayne doesn’t watch the game (though game audio is piped in), but she says she enjoys meeting so many influential and inspiring people. Photo by Bradley Slade.

MIDNIGHT, At 12:01 a.m. the game ends.


Sunday, 12:19 a.m.

Bleacher Blasting: With military precision, members of the Cadet Booster Club (the unofficial Air Force ROTC) power-wash empty stadium bleachers with a fire hose. About 120 people help with stadium stands cleanup, many of them volunteers who are raising funds for campus clubs or charities. Photo by Bradley Slade.

Sunday, 12:24 a.m.

Postgame Pilgrimage: President Kevin J Worthen (BA ’79, JD ’82) and advancement vice president Matthew O. Richardson (BA ’87, MEd ’90, EdD ’96) conclude a postgame ritual with a 12:24 a.m. stroll across the empty field. After coaches’ comments in the locker room, the two men join in the team prayer, congratulate or console individual players, and then check in on injured players before heading home. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Sunday, 1:08 a.m.

Clean Sweep: After collecting recyclables, crews sweep trash out of the aisles. Photo by Bradley Slade.

Sunday, 1:15 a.m.

Turf War: Battered by cleats, the field of Kentucky bluegrass is full of divots after a game. Minutes after the final whistle, the grounds crew storms the field, sprinkling grass seed and using circle cutters to replace damaged areas. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Sunday, 1:37 a.m.

Manmade Downpour: About 120 people help with stadium stands cleanup, many of them volunteers who are raising funds for campus clubs or charities, like the BYU Wildlife Club. Photo by Jaren Wilkey.

Sunday, 1:26 a.m.

Talk All Night: Long after the final play ends, the radio broadcast continues. Gregory A. Wrubell (BA ’90), left, and his team, including sideline reporter Nathan L. Meikle (BS ’06), right, fill the airwaves for more than two hours after each game. Photo by Bradley Slade.

Sunday, 03:24 a.m.

Last Man Out: When he arrived at the stadium at 4 a.m., assistant event supervisor Steven G. Larsen (’77) pushed open the main gates, unlocked the doors, and raised the flag over LaVell Edwards Stadium. At 3:24 the next morning, the field is silent again as he turns the key in the gate and makes his way to the parking lot. Photo by Bradley Slade.


More Articles


The Y’s Guys

Former players and lifelong fans, BYU’s new coaches embrace Cougar football’s next chapter.


Exploring an Ancient Language

For nearly three decades, BYU professor Janis Nuckolls has been unlocking the secrets of Quichua language and culture.


A Flight to Remember

BYU’s College of Nursing adopted the national Honor flight program to better train students in veteran care.