People like Hal Morrell and Fili Taufa, who left Provo on Wednesday night and got a truck full of BYU gear to Brooks Stadium in Conway, South Carolina, by Friday afternoon deserve the real recognition for helping transform the game from a possibility into a reality, he said.
But Benson did plant the seed.
On Oct. 24 — a Saturday where BYU and CCU both won their respective games to remain undefeated — Benson said he reached out to BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, who he has known for a long time, and tossed out the idea of some kind of matchup between the two teams.
“Now I had no idea the future meant two months later,” Benson said with a laugh. “I’ve been in public higher education for 25 years now, and oftentimes we say, ‘We can’t do this. … That’s too difficult. We’ve never done that before.’ And as it comes to athletics, ‘You can’t change games. You can’t play out of conference. You can’t travel all the way across the country to do this.’ But the pandemic I think has revealed that at our core, we’re institutions that want to help each other.
“It’s heartening to see that at a time like this, when people thought this was absolutely impossible, a few people got together and said, ‘We’re going to make it work,’” Benson continued. “As a result, look at the positive wave of reaction on both sides. I hope this is also the beginning of a relationship between our two schools.”
Now, the surprising matchup between CCU and BYU is about to unfold. And there will be a surprising number of fans in the limited crowd, like Benson, who have ties to both schools.
Who do you pull for when your blood runs Chanticleer teal and Cougar blue? We talked to a few fans to find out.
‘The meanest, baddest, cleverest rooster’
Benson was a huge BYU football fan growing up, and he values the memories and education he received from the university. But he’s also the incoming president of Coastal Carolina University.
“I would be in real trouble with my bosses if I didn’t say I’m 100% in,” Benson said with a laugh. “We’re going to be cheering for the Chanticleers. It’s the meanest, baddest, cleverest rooster in the barnyard.”
Many have asked us where our loyalties will be on Saturday for @CoastalFootball vs. @BYUfootball— Michael T. Benson (@michaeltbenson) December 3, 2020
I'll always be grateful for my education @BYU and the experiences the university afforded me. . .
But #TeamBenson is all in with the Chanticleers: pic.twitter.com/Pw1MYJ2ziq
On Thursday — not long after the game became official — Benson’s son Samuel, a current BYU student and Deseret News writer, was on the fence about who to pull for. His initial answer? Cheer for whoever has the ball.
“Connections aside, it’s gonna be a fantastic football game,” he said. “But that way I’m just cheering for offense the whole game. I think Coastal has more to gain from a win, so part of me wants to cheer for Coastal.”
But on Friday night, Benson made an official decision.
“Never cheered against the Cougs in my life. I’ll wear teal and support the Chants any other weekend,” he posted on Twitter. “But tomorrow, I’m staying loyal, strong, and true. #GOCOUGS.”
I used to cover the @BYUfootball beat for @BleacherReport & now I attend @BYU. Never cheered against the Cougs in my life. I’ll wear teal and support the Chants any other weekend ... but tomorrow, I’m staying loyal, strong, and true. #GOCOUGS https://t.co/SkMpIkDtE3— Samuel Benson (@sambbenson) December 5, 2020
A house divided
Rodney Brown’s loyalty to Coastal Carolina University dates back to when he had a Plymouth Gold Duster.
At that time, the campus — which consisted of two classroom buildings, a gym and a small fine arts center — was a four-year branch of the University of South Carolina called Coastal Carolina College. Enrollment reached about 1,800. Brown made the 30-minute drive to and from the small school every day before graduating in 1981.
Nearly 40 years later, Brown is still a 30-minute drive from Coastal. But he lives in a house divided.
Brown and his wife, Mary, raised six kids in Myrtle Beach — who all went on to pursue their education in Provo. In total, Brown and a son-in-law graduated from Coastal, five kids and a son-in-law graduated from BYU, and his one son who attended UVU is a passionate BYU and Coastal Carolina fan.
And many of them will be in the stands at Brooks Stadium on Saturday.
So who is Brown cheering for?
“The chance meeting on the gridiron between the two teams, both nationally ranked, is amazing,” he wrote in a message to the Deseret News. “So I will be sitting in the stands, wearing my teal Coastal Carolina hat, with my blue and white BYU jacket, naturally rooting for … a good game. The way I see it, I really can’t lose in this one!”
‘Super happy and super sad’
The BYU-CCU football game was the talk of Geoff Insch’s office Thursday morning — even before Liberty officially canceled its appearance at Coastal due to COVID-19.
“There’s kind of like a big rivalry between CCU and Liberty, so Liberty’s always a big game for us. But the feeling around here is like, ‘Forget Liberty, this is going to be a huge game,’” Insch told the Deseret News from his office at Coastal. “We’ve had a crazy season … and a meeting of two teams in the top 20 in the nation, playing together in Conway, and (ESPN’s) ‘GameDay’s’ going to be here? Just all these things coming together are making this a very, very memorable, very historic game for CCU.”
Insch joined CCU as a video producer in 2016, shortly after the Chanticleers won the College World Series and “teal pride was at an all-time high,” he said.
Saturday’s game is the latest exciting development for CCU athletics, but it’s a moment creating internal conflict for Insch, a BYU grad who until Saturday has rooted for both teams.
“I’ve been having a really good time watching both of these teams have great years, seeing the big Y and the Chancy head in those undefeated graphics,” Insch said. “It’s heartbreaking to think that I can’t keep watching both of my teams go undefeated. At the end of the night, I’m going to be super happy and super sad all at once.”
Insch has loved BYU since he was a kid. His parents both went there, and he met his wife at BYU. In 2013 — a year after graduating from BYU — Insch moved to South Carolina for a three-month internship. He’s now been there for seven years.
So who is he rooting for?
“I hope it’s a really great game. I hope it’s really close. I hope it’s exciting. But I hope that the Chanticleers come out ahead just by a tad,” Insch said. “This has been the year of the Chanticleer. … We’ve got such great momentum. We really are a school on the rise. BYU is very established, and for that reason, Coastal has so much more to gain from it. It would mean so much to the community here. That’s why I’ve gotta be team Teal. Go Chanticleers!”