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Schulthess got out the word about BYU sports

When BYU launches into fall football practices on Saturday, you can bet it will be a true multimedia event. Read all about it — here, if possible. In addition, there will be blogs, Tweets, radio, TV, YouTube, Facebook and — who knows? — maybe even a reality show called "BYU's Got Talent" or "Practicin' with the Stars."

More information than you'll ever need.

The reason I bring this up is because last month, former BYU sports information director Dave Schulthess was inducted into the first-ever Utah Valley Public Relations Hall of Fame. You might say he's being honored for getting out the word — for 37 years. Remember when Danny Ainge drove past five Notre Dame players to land BYU in the Elite Eight? If so, you saw some of Schulthess' work. The rise of the Quarterback Factory? That had Schulthess' prints all over it, too. That national football championship in 1984? Schulthess.

The poll voters would never have known BYU had a team, if not for him.

"It was wonderful to even be involved," said Schulthess modestly.

Schulthess started at BYU in 1951 as a one-man sports P.R. staff and, over the next four decades, attended more than 1,500 Cougar football and basketball games. That doesn't even touch on the swimming, soccer, baseball, track, tennis, wrestling and other Cougar events he staffed.

All in the name of getting out their name.

Exactly how a school passes the word is what has changed. In '51, Schulthess handled everything, a regular one-man band. He looked like Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins."

In large part, that involved showing up for road football games on the Monday prior. He would spend the week visiting newspapers and talking to booster groups. He was also sometimes drafted to be a correspondent for certain Utah papers, which realized it was cheaper to have Schulthess file a story for free, on site, than to pay a reporter to travel.

Two years into his tenure, BYU made its first TV appearance. On Thanksgiving Day, 1953, Utah and BYU played on the small screen, with Lindsey Nelson calling the game.

Later, after Schulthess retired in the late '80s, came other information innovations: Internet, talk radio, cell phones, blackberry, texting, etc. Managing the news became a lot harder than just taking the local writer out to lunch. Spies showed up to videotape practices. Anonymous people started posting unverified "scoops" on the Internet.

BYU sports got bigger, too. Men's teams thrived and women's athletics blossomed, each adding to the long list of things to publicize.

It was apparent early on that the job was too big for one person. So gradually the sports information staff at BYU grew from one to what it is now — six full-timers and 10 part-time.

In between, there were countless adventures for Schulthess: staying with the team in the basement of a Laramie hotel, while cowboys stomped away in the ballroom overhead; stopping with LaVell Edwards for a milkshake on the way to the airport while the team cooled its heels on the plane; hiding Tommy Hudspeth in a Provo hotel until he could be introduced as football coach the next day; sneaking out of El Paso under police escort after a basketbrawl.

The kind of stuff you might want to make up, but don't need to.

Schulthess was always soft-spoken and genteel. He considered his counterpart at Utah, Bruce Woodbury, a close friend. It's not like they didn't want to beat the brains out of their rival, it's just that once the game was over, it was done.

I asked Schulthess if he thought the BYU-Utah rivalry had become too mean in the years since he was hired.

"Yes," he said. "It's probably pushing the boundaries, for the simple reason that on a clear day I find myself pulling for Utah's success."

"Now," he continued, "people say, 'They're (Utah) the enemy.' No they're not. They're in the state and if they do well, it lends prestige to the whole conference. For that reason, when they hit the road and start winning big games, I can't help but say, 'More power to them.' "

More than just good sportsmanship, that sounds like a good, practical P.R. approach to me.

e-mail: rock@desnews.com