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Wearing opinions on backs

OREM — His product had only been on the market a week, but already business was looking good for entrepreneur/comedian/rabble-rouser James Rex.

"Are you the guy who makes those T-shirts?" said a man who approached him at a restaurant, Wednesday. When Rex said he was, the man handed him a business card and said, "I own a shop in the mall that sells T-shirts. I'd like to talk with you."

That's how it goes when you're on a roll. People come to you. Rex has already sold 40 of the 50 T-shirts he ordered; another 200 are waiting in the wings.

All he needs now is to figure out what to say if Gary Crowton calls.

Actually, he already has.

"I think I'd honestly tell him if he really wants to have success at BYU he should swallow his pride and bring in the right people to help, and quit making excuses," said Rex.

This is probably a good place for some background. Rex, a student at Utah Valley State College, and a lifelong BYU fan, has suffered with each football loss since Crowton became the Cougars' football coach.

So he determined to do something about it. He considered making T-shirts with a theme such as "Fire Crowton — better him than us." But Rex, who does comedy on Saturday nights at Johnny B's in Provo, didn't consider that line clever enough.

Then he hit on an idea: he'd cite scripture. On the front of the shirt it says, "Fire Crowton." On the back it quotes a Book of Mormon passage: "It is better that one man should perish than a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief." (1 Nephi 4:13)

He couldn't stand to see Cougar Nation dwindling in unbelief.

"My mission president told us to read the Book of Mormon a half hour a day," said Rex. "I guess it paid off."

To understand Rex's shirt, it helps to know something of LDS scripture. In one story, a good guy is admonished to eliminate a bad guy that is hindering the people's spiritual progress. The gist is that unpleasant things must sometimes be done to allow good to prevail. It's not unlike the more contemporary quote from Mr. Spock of the Starship Enterprise: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one."

In Rex's mind, that means firing Crowton, ASAP.

Rex didn't make any T-shirts last year, figuring he'd "give Crowton the benefit of the doubt" this season. But after the losses to Stanford and USC, he decided it was time to act. (He also considered tees advocating removal of Val Hale, but the school beat him to it by excising the former athletic director from his job.)

Since the shirts arrived, Rex and a friend who attends BYU have been selling them for $12 ( on the BYU and UVSC campuses. They carry a sign that says, "Support BYU Football — Fire Crowton!"

He estimates about one-third of those who stop "want to argue." The rest love it.

He hasn't been assailed, but has been called sacrilegious. One man stopped and stared for a long moment before solemnly saying, "Wow."

"I realized that anyone who supports Crowton doesn't have a clue," said Rex.

That isn't to imply he wants the Cougars to fail. Even after ordering the shirts, he watched BYU's narrow loss to Boise State last weekend, hoping the Cougars would win. Rex has been accused of being disloyal, but actually considers himself the most loyal of fans — one who believes the way for the football program to improve is to find a new coach. He's not alone. Even one anonymous member of the football team has purchased a shirt, but asked to hold delivery until the season is over.

Rex has been asked several times if he thinks his campaign will make Crowton feel bad.

"I don't feel bad for anyone who makes $400,000 a year and stinks at his job," Rex said. "People say I'm going to hurt his feelings.

"He hurts mine every Saturday."