PROVO -- Spreading the Spirit of the Y ever farther and wider, building on the legacy of hospitality that BYU has sought to create since its inception and showing kindness and courtesy to all. These have been the goals of BYU's Volunteer Hosting Program since it was established in 2004.
"We believe in sportsmanship at BYU," said BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe. "Our volunteer host program is one way that BYU Athletics is reaching out to ensure that every visitor to our campus feels the Spirit of the Y."
Verl Doman, the father of four ex-BYU football players, first proposed the Volunteer Hosting Program to former Athletic Director Val Hale. Doman and Frank Millward came up with the idea in 2002 while serving as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Birmingham, England. Doman and Millward were discussing the hospitality that Notre Dame fans and staff had shown them in their visits to South Bend. Wanting to help BYU create such an atmosphere for visiting fans, the two launched the program at the start of the 2004 season -- fittingly against Notre Dame. They and thirteen volunteers greeted Irish fans prior to the game and engaged them in conversation. The staff of volunteers welcomed visitors this way to each succeeding home game.
"We hoped visitors would enjoy their stay in Provo, leave with a deepened regard for BYU and gain a desire to return -- regardless of the final score," Millward said. "We were all excited and pleased with the reception we got after that first year. It really motivated us to continue."
Seeking ways to improve the program for 2005, an idea was put forth to offer the parents of opposing players a tour of the press box, loges and other facilities at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The first tour went to Boston College fans. After the game, several BC fans contributed to a letter to The Daily Universe expressing appreciation for the warm welcome and press box tour. The tour quickly became a mainstay.
The volunteer hosts' efforts have not gone unnoticed by Mountain West Conference opponents either. TCU athletic director Daniel Morrison wrote a letter to BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe expressing his thanks for the sportsmanship that prevailed before and after the game, despite BYU's overtime loss. Prior to last season's Air Force game, one of the Academy's Commanders articulated his gratitude by presenting a Service Commendation Medal to the host who conducted his press box tour. Colorado State and Utah fans also have shared kind words for the welcomes they've received.
Hosts reach out in other ways too. Some have helped first-time guests to Utah sort through road maps and travel itineraries. Others have sat in the visiting fans' section to share in the camaraderie. The highlight of the 2005 hosting season came when hosts assisted BYU in providing an afternoon of entertainment to Hurricane Katrina refugees staying at Camp Williams. BYU invited the refugees to be guests at the Eastern Illinois football game. Hosts rode the bus with them to the game, welcomed them when they arrived and sat with them during the game.
The program will continue with projected changes for the 2006 season including matching shirts and ties for volunteers and a larger hosting staff to better welcome fans at all gates of the stadium. Entering its third year, Doman, Millward and everyone else involved in the program hope the successes of the past will continue to grow.