D.J. Gay meant the comment as a lighthearted, encouraging, funny statement.
After San Diego State’s captain said it though, it likely opened up a Pandora’s Box of horrors for SDSU’s Athletic Department.
“I would ask The Show to come up with the funniest, craziest things they can come up with to help distract Jimmer at the free throw line,” Gay said of BYU’s star guard Jimmer Fredette. “Just to be as creative as they can be and be our sixth man.”
Somewhere, in some part of the Aztec Athletics Center, SDSU officials collectively cringed.
Last year, SDSU’s student section created such a controversy after the BYU game that Sports Illustrated writer Seth Davis labeled it as “totally classless.” It was smashed on the message boards by angry BYU fans, and columnists all across the country took it behind the woodshed.
The Show had dressed up as Mormon missionaries – decked out in short-sleeve button-ups, black ties and bicycle helmets – and had made signs poking fun at BYU and its religion, and ultimately ended the night with a “You’re still Mormon!” chant.
This year, SDSU is concerned something like that could happen again, and its administrators are asking fans and members of The Show to police themselves.
“I would say we didn’t represent our university in the way that it should be represented,” Senior Associate Athletic Director Don Oberhelman said of last year’s game and ensuing controversy. “The university is bigger than the game and bigger than The Show. We want to represent the university in a respectful way that it deserves. I don’t know if we did that last year.”
Oberhelman and his colleagues have talked to The Show leaders and have asked them to “tone down any offensive chants, signs or T-shirts.” Saturday’s game against BYU will be televised nationally on CBS, and the last thing SDSU wants is for the storyline to be about its fans more than its basketball team.
“I just want to make sure all the news on Sunday is about the game,” Oberhelman said.
But The Show is still planning to wear its missionary garb. Its leaders created a Facebook event titled, “Wear Missionary Gear to the BYU game,” and as of yesterday, it had more than 300 people “attending.”
Vincent Silva, a mainstay of The Show and a 2009 SDSU graduate, said the attire isn’t supposed to offend BYU, Mormons or anybody’s religion.
“If you’re trying to disrespect it and degrade the dress and attire, then I think that’s one thing,” Silva said. “But that’s not what we’re trying to do. For us, it’s more of a humorous thing. It’s more of, ‘Hey, look at all these missionaries rooting for San Diego State.’ Some people when they first hear about or see it, they jump to the conclusion that ‘Oh, they’re doing it in a mocking sense.’ That’s definitely not what we’re trying to do.”
Regardless, Oberhelman would rather not see it on Saturday.
“I don’t like it,” he said. “I wish they wouldn’t do that, but bottom line is the kids are wearing shirts and ties to a basketball game and there’s really not much we can do to prevent that from happening.”
The school will, however, try to prevent offensive signs, T-shirts and chants from making their way into Viejas Arena.
SDSU officials and security will warn students at this week’s campout. Before Saturday’s game, signs and T-shirts will be checked. During the game, fans are encouraged to drown out any offensive chants.
Still, Silva said The Show will have some witty signs on display. Some of which include: “Hi Moms,” “For the Last Time, Get Off Our Doorstep,” and “Which Mom named you Jimmer?”
Beau Bearden, a senior at SDSU who dresses up as a gecko in The Show, said he will dress up in missionary gear and will support the signs, but he’s not sure if it’s the right thing to do.
“My opinion personally is it should be about us and not them,” Bearden said. “It should be about what makes us a good student section.”
Bearden also created a Facebook group inviting fans to strip off their missionary attire in favor of red and black in the second half. This, he believes, will help squash the complaints of the missionary gear.
As for the game itself, No. 4 / 6 SDSU will take on No. 7 BYU at 11 a.m. on Saturday for sole possession of first place in the Mountain West Conference, and Oberhelman expects everything to run smoothly.
“From my perspective, I think we’re going to have an incident-free Saturday,” he said. “Because I think the students are going to take the leadership and do the right thing here.”
SDSU officials can only hope.