There must have been something in the water at the Pepsi Center for the BYU vs. Gonzaga game. And Joseph Smith knows it sure wasn't caffeine or alcohol that led to the absurd amount of distasteful heckling coming from the 10,000- plus Cougar fans present for the third round NCAA Tournament matchup. It is rare for Gonzaga fans to be out-traveled by any team, especially when the team draws a region that plays west of the Mississippi. But considering the close proximity of Denver to Provo, Utah, Cougar fans came out of the woodwork for the matchup. Their enthusiasm and decibel level were staggering, but their sheer impropriety seemed to turn even more heads. One would expect devout supporters of a Mormon institution to put morality on display as regularly as Charles Barkley does stupidity. Instead, the cheers that were sounding throughout the Denver air were distasteful at best. Homophobic slurs were standard for 40 minutes, blended with racial comments and knocks on Zag players' intelligence. Creative cheers that expose flaws of an opponent are what make live sporting events great. But these were not clever jabs at Gonzaga, nor were they drunken ramblings of students who were enjoying themselves. Instead, they were malicious attacks that have no place in sports, such as calling out to specific Gonzaga players intentionally questioning their sexual orientation. It seems that this is just the tip of the iceberg, as well. A ninth school is entering the West Coast Conference in the 2011-2012 year. Making the trek to Utah will be the least of Gonzaga's worries. Higher up on the list will undoubtedly be the hostility they face when they arrive. If Saturday's game was any indication, the environment will be a harsh one. The Marriott Center in Provo seats 22,700 for BYU basketball, and regularly sells out. The current eight schools in the West Coast Conference house about 36,000 fans, collectively. The environmental disparity teams will face when they travel to Provo will be massive. In the past eight years, the Cougars are 111-10 at home, coupled with a staggering .784 winning percentage there over the past 37 years. Whatever bad taste Jimmer and crew left in the mouth of Mark Few last weekend, Gonzaga better be ready for just as hard a fight in the upcoming season. Although by then Jimmer will be gracing the NBA with his 45-foot bombs, playing in Provo will still be no picnic. I don't even think they allow picnics there, anyway. Though both Amare Stoudemire and Tim Tebow endorsed Brandon Davies' actions with his girlfriend, the university made its stance known, basically crucifying Davies for having premarital sex with his girlfriend. There has been speculation, though, that had Fredette "Jimmered" his girlfriend, university sanctions would have been much more lax, to the tune of him not missing any playing time. This speculation comes not by way of this columnist, but instead by endless amounts of sporting publications that one will find raising the issue when putting the words, "Fredette" and "sex" into google. ESPN, Fox Sports, Bleacher report, and countless blogs have entered into the arena, expressing their opinions on the matter. The pressure BYU undoubtedly received to chastise Davies for his actions might have run deeper than his personal actions. It is not unreasonable to assume that had the team's superstar displayed the same indifference to university policies, he would have most likely gotten a slap on the wrist, a few more hours in Sunday school and a heavenly blessing for more devilishly deep 3-pointers. BYU, like most schools, is very vested in its sports programs. Though they admittedly jeopardized their postseason chances by suspending Davies, the team is obviously still very functional without him. The same could not be said if it was Jimmer they were missing. The funds that the Mormon school receives from alums are extensive, making BYU one of the wealthiest schools in the nation. It says a lot about its academic programs that graduates are successful enough to donate so generously. The donations come pouring in regularly, turning Provo into a Mormon Mecca of money. With the upgrades to the Marriott Center and surrounding athletic facilities in Provo, the money is flowing like salmon to Capistrano and drawing more recruits every year. And the Mormon base in the western United States gives them an undoubtedly widespread pool to choose from, allowing the talent BYU has coming in to skyrocket. Dave Rose has the third-highest winning percentage among NCAA men's coaches, and with his recent success in the tournament, the staying power of the program seems permanent. The sheer size and wealth of the newest WCC school will bring about a new, more hostile environment for all conference visitors. If the fans display what was seen in Denver, visitors to the Marriott Center will need to exhibit mental toughness just as much as physical prowess. Though if the Zags leave Provo as winners next season, they should probably hold off on the celebration until they return to Spokane. I've heard the parties in Provo leave a lot to the imagination.
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