Roman philosopher Cicero wrote, “For there is assuredly nothing dearer to a man than wisdom, and though age takes away all else, it undoubtedly brings us that.”

Dick Oveson, Dale Tingey, Lothaire Bluth, Chauncey Riddle, Walter Cryer, Ruth Basher and De LaMar Jensen combine for 663 years of living, with most of those spent cheering for BYU football. They are a magnificent seven, whose loyalties to the Cougars are time-tested and refined by a lot of highs and lows.

Who better than this group to shed wisdom’s light on BYU’s fascinating journey, which began in 1922 and culminating here in the fall of 2023 with admittance into the Big 12 Conference.

Dick Oveson, 93

“I think BYU has always been respected but now (the Power Five conferences) will let us in where we are acknowledged as part of the crew,” said Dick Oveson. “There is some satisfaction in that.”

Oveson was born Jan. 5, 1930, in Corvallis, Oregon. He attended his first BYU game in 1952.

“It’s just been fun watching them play,” Oveson said. “When we had those years like 1980 and 1984, those were fun! We waited a long time for it.”

Oveson is old school, and he is looking at life in the Big 12 through a cautious lens.

“We’ll have to wait and see whether we can compete with them or not. We’ll be playing big teams every week,” he said. “I just hope we don’t start relaxing the standards that we feel are so important to do it.”

As for a first season prediction — “I’ve laughingly said we are going to go undefeated, but I don’t think that is very realistic. I suppose we will win half our games.”

Dale Tingey, 99

Two years after BYU started football, Dale Tingey started life. Born May 5, 1924, in Centerville, Utah, he started attending games in Provo when he was 12 and has been true blue ever since.

“BYU football has meant a lot to me,” Tingey said. “Colleges and universities are often judged by their football teams. Our boys have always played hard and try to do what’s right.”

Alive for nearly 10 decades of quarterbacks, Tingey perked up when remembering Steve Young.

BYU quarterback Steve Young throws a pass. Young was among a number of talented Cougar QBs who had to bide his time in Provo until his number was called. | Deseret News archives

“He was a good friend,” he said. “He was a great football player, leader and a good spokesman for BYU and a good church representative. He was my favorite.”

As for a Big 12 prediction, Tingey, who oversaw American Indian Services during his career on campus, smiles when he thinks about BYU’s future.

“We just wanted to get in,” he said. “I’m happy about it.”

Lothaire Bluth, 89

“We were a pretty good team. We just couldn’t win any games,” said Lothaire Bluth about his first year on campus watching his Cougars in 1955. “I remember a game where we punted on third down just to get to the other end of the field.”

Born Sept. 19, 1934, in Mesa, Arizona, Bluth developed his BYU loyalties in his home 635 miles away from Provo. His first chance to watch the Cougars live was in the early ’50s, when BYU came to Goodwin Stadium in Tempe to take on Arizona State.

Over the years, Jim McMahon’s pass to Clay Brown in the 1980 Holiday Bowl and Jonny Harline’s game-winning touchdown catch to beat Utah in 2006 became his favorites.

Jim McMahon celebrates with his dad Jim McMahon Sr. at the Holiday bowl in 1980. | Deseret News Archive

“I’m getting too old to remember a lot of those games,” said Bluth, who will turn 90 10 days before BYU’s Big 12 home opener against Cincinnati. “The Big 12 is an ambitious step. It will take two to three years, but we’ll grow and recruit well enough to compete. We’ve already won a national championship. We’ll do just fine if we are patient and let the system work.”

Bluth knows life in a power conference will be tough, but he doesn’t expect BYU coach Kalani Sitake to punt on third down just to get rid of the football. Those days are history — part of his history.

“Once you are a Cougar, you are always a Cougar,” Bluth said.

Chauncey Riddle, 96

Born Dec. 18, 1926, in Salt Lake City, Chauncey Riddle arrived on campus in 1943 when there wasn’t any football due to World War II. He graduated and joined the Army. When Riddle returned to campus in 1952, he launched a 40-year career as a popular professor — and a BYU sports fan.

“I remember a fellow before the Edwards era that was a very good runner — Eldon Fortie,” Riddle said. “He was able to do things nobody else could do. I really enjoyed watching him.”

He also remembers a certain long bomb.

“I was in San Diego for that last-minute Hail Mary pass caught by BYU,” he said. “That’s probably my favorite memory. Unlike many, I didn’t leave that game early. I also always enjoyed it when BYU beat Utah. Those are special.”

Riddle sees the Cougars’ impact potential in the Big 12 as much more than football.

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“I hope BYU’s presence in all of those places will help the image of the church so that people will pay more attention to the church and learn about what it has to offer,” he said. “I think the example that our young men set by living the gospel and playing for BYU — they become examples to the world and can have a lot of good influence.”

Attending high school in Las Vegas, Riddle strapped on the leather helmet with dreams of his own golden gridiron moments.

“I went out for football and only lasted three days because I had to wear glasses,” said Riddle. “I couldn’t see with them, and I couldn’t play without them. So, I quit and went out for track instead.”

Riddle handed his football aspirations over to the Cougars many decades ago, and he’s been running, and now gingerly walking, with them ever since.

“I think (the Big 12) is a great opportunity, but they are going to have to work hard to measure up,” he said. “I hope they will. I hope Sitake can do it. After the LaVell Era, I figured anything was possible.”

Walter Cryer, 94

The Beatles arrived in America in 1964 — the same year Walter Cryer arrived at his first BYU football game in Provo, followed by more than six decades without missing another one. What the Beatles did for music, the Cougars did for Cryer’s BYU fandom.

Born April 10, 1929, in Chicago, Cryer enjoyed a bond he developed with his campus colleague LaVell Edwards, who became head coach in 1972.

BYU coach LaVell Edwards and Utah coach Ron McBride greet each other before the game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2000.
BYU coach LaVell Edwards and Utah coach Ron McBride greet each other before the game at Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah Friday, Nov. 24, 2000. | Johanna Kirk, Deseret News

“He always looked pretty calm, but I think he was pretty excited too,” Cryer said. As for how Edwards might see the Big 12 development, “If it would improve the program and give us some opportunities for more notoriety and publicity, then I think he would be very happy.”

The Big 12 media recently voted BYU to finish 11th in the 14-team conference.

“That’s a very strong conference and will test us. I think it will be good for our school, not only in football but for all the sports,” Cryer said. “I hope it will help us in recruiting and give us a chance to compete at the top level. It will bring greater exposure for the university and what it stands for.”

Ruth Basher, 94

“When I first came, it was hardly a football team,” said Ruth Basher. “My first year was 1949. We weren’t too swift at football at that point.”

BYU went 0-11 that season.

Fortunately for Basher, who was born Sept. 3, 1929, football on campus eventually improved, and 41 years after her initial experience, the Cougars gave her the thrill of a lifetime.

“That year we won the Heisman Trophy is my favorite because it was so unexpected at the beginning of the season,” she said. “We really got involved once we beat Miami. Ty (Detmer) — he was a nice fellow.”

Basher spent the last few years of her career on campus working in the honor code office.

“There were ups and downs. Periodically I would call LaVell and once in a while he would call me,” she said. “We developed a nice relationship.”

As for the Big 12, “I think it’s going to be a learning experience for us, but I think it will be interesting, both with some of the places we will go and for those who come here. They are going to be amazed at all our facilities and the setting,” Basher said. “Some of those who are a little bit resistant about coming to Provo might find themselves surprised when they get here.”

They will also get free BYU Creamery ice cream if they are sitting in the visitors’ section.

De LaMar Jensen, 98

BYU went 3-3 in 1925, the year De Lamar Jensen was born on April 22 in Rosewood, Idaho. When he arrived on campus as a student, they weren’t much better, but he stuck with them and the payoff in memories has been priceless.

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“Football is my favorite sport to watch. I watch quite a bit of it,” Jensen said. “I went to a lot of the games when I was younger — I went to all of them, as a matter of fact.”

Watching BYU join the Big 12 during Jensen’s own twilight season is an unexpected development.

“I never thought it would happen. I was quite surprised, but nothing surprises me too much anymore,” he said with a laugh. “I worry a little about it. We’ve got to come up with some good players and some good plays. I’m not sure if we can or not, but I hope so.”

There have been 13 BYU head football coaches in Jensen’s lifetime. Sitake will be the first to lead the Cougars into a Power Five conference and even at 98 years old, Jensen will give him his youthful support.

“I think we are going to surprise a few people,” he said. “I hope so, too!”

Living history

These seven BYU football fans have nearly seen it all — from the early struggles to the national championship; from a team that punted on third down to a quarterback that won the Heisman Trophy; from a team that never played on television to a program that only plays on television; and from a hillside stadium of 12,000 seats to cavernous LaVell Edwards Stadium, which sits 63,470.

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All seven are about to see something they have never seen before, at least not in 663 years of combined life, and that’s BYU playing in the Big 12 — even though it’s highly unlikely that any of them will attend the historic season opener on Sept. 2 in Provo against Sam Houston.

In fact, they may very well be asleep long before the 8:15 p.m. kickoff. But each one of them, and all the other lifelong fans who have supported this team through thick and thin, deserve a tip of the cap. Even as some long timers may feel they are being “priced out” by the surging costs of today’s game, or relocated to less-desirable seats, their loyalties remain entrenched.

New money is as vital to college sports as rocket fuel is to a rocket. The financial wave of big bucks will boost BYU football into a national orbit and help keep it there. But old money can’t get lost in space. It demands a revered spot in appreciated history.

After all, the likes of Oveson, Tingey, Bluth, Riddle, Cryer, Basher, Jensen and tens of thousands of other old-school season ticket holders and donors, are the ones who broke the ground and built the launch pad — and everybody knows a rocket needs a place to blast off from if it ever hopes to reach the stars.

BYU fan Dick Oveson poses for a portrait outside of his home in Provo on Thursday, July 27, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
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