Athletic Traditions

Preparations for placing the initials BYU on the mountainside began in April of 1906 when president George H. Brimhall commissioned surveyors for the letters “B,” “Y” and “U.” The letter “Y” was first laid out to ensure that the initials were properly centered on the mountain. Beginning in the early morning, students formed a line that zigzagged up the mountain. Standing eight feet apart, each student would carry a load up to the next and then return for another.

The project, which many expected to be completed by 10 a.m., lasted until 4 p.m. and only the “Y” was covered. After such a laborious day of work, plans to fill in the other two letters were scrapped. Covered with a thin layer of lime powder, the letter was in need of constant repair. Hoping to make it more permanent, a layer of rock was added in 1907. The next year, 20,000 pounds of sand and cement were carried up the mountain to form a three-foot high wall around the letter to hold it together. Several years later the letter underwent a face lift as the blocks, or serifs, were added to it to give it its current appearance.

A nationally recognized symbol of BYU, Y Mountain is a featured shot of almost every Cougar game broadcast on television. Located about half a mile east of campus and halfway up the mountain, the “Y” looks out over the valley and is one of its most prominent features.

Y Mountain COSMO top

The cougar, chosen as BYU’s mascot by former coach Eugene L. Roberts in the early 1920s, has undergone a tremendous evolution since its inception to become what is now known as the feline phenomenon of Cosmo the Cougar. Beginning in 1924 when BYU purchased a pair of cougar cubs for 50 cents each to excite BYU fans at athletic events, live cougars prowled the sidelines of BYU games on a regular basis through the late ‘40s and on special occasions through the ‘60s.

The original cubs were housed on the south side of campus until 1929 when they managed to break out of their cage, kill two dogs and begin stalking livestock on nearby farms. Both were recaptured later the same day. Three weeks later, one cougar died and the other was taken to the old Salt Lake Zoo. BYU procured its mascots from nearby zoos and local bounty hunters but never owned its own cougars again.

Cosmo the Cougar, the brainchild of pep chairman Dwayne Stevenson, made his first official appearance before BYU fans on Oct. 15, 1953. At a cost of 73 dollars for the costume, Daniel T. Gallego, Stevenson’s roommate, became the first man under the fur. The name given the big cat was derived from BYU’s diverse student body.

“BYU was a very international, cosmopolitan school and that is where we got the name Cosmo,” said Gallego.

With over a half-century of service to the BYU community, Cosmo has become an icon of Cougar sports to fans and foes across the country. Through Cosmo’s Kids Club and Cosmo’s Corner, he is helping raise another generation of BYU fans. Prowling the sidelines for the Cougars, his antics add to the experience of game day at BYU. Cosmo brings out the best of Cougar spirit in fans at athletic competitions both home and away.


The original Y bell traveled across the plains with the early pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was used to call meetings among the saints and to announce any deaths in the community. Donated to the Brigham Young Academy in 1875, it was used to begin and dismiss classes until it was destroyed in a fire in 1884. The Academy went without a bell for the next 28 years, using instead a variety of instruments as a class bell.

Rung after each BYU victory, the bell was quieted in 1949 after a basketball win over rival Utah. Several overzealous students climbed the tower and vigorously beat upon the bell until it cracked. Repaired with a bronze patch in 1954 by Frank Hemingway, the bell was removed from the education building and mounted on a trailer so it could travel with BYU’s teams to away games.

Its mobility proved its downfall as it was stolen in 1958 to be found six months later in nearby Springville. The theft prompted the construction of a bell tower on BYU’s upper-campus overlooking the Smith Fieldhouse. Dedicated in 1959, the tower served well until 1973 when the bell fell while ringing in the dedication of the Marriott Center. The supporting yoke above the bell was broken and the bell shattered. The bell was soon repaired by Ray Mortenson of the BYU Maintenance shop using electric welding—miraculously maintaining its previous tone—and was remounted in the tower.

The Victory BellIn 1978, the bell was moved to its current home on the southwest corner of the Marriott Center. The open arch tower was designed by BYU landscape architect Boyd Dawler and is made of the same cast stone as the exterior pillars of the Marriott Center. Although the old bell tower above the Smith Fieldhouse no longer stands, the massive steel I-beams that supported the tower have now been converted into the strongest park benches in the Intermountain West.

Over the years, the ringing of the bell has come to represent honor, achievement and spirit, and has inspired several poems and songs from BYU faculty and alumni. Clyde D. Sandgren, who composed the Cougar Fight Song, penned a verse that was sung at the dedication of the upper-campus bell tower. As BYU victories have become more and more commonplace in recent decades, the ringing of the “Y bell” after each win has renamed it the “Victory Bell.”


Brigham Young University
By Clyde D. Sandgren, ‘32

Rise all loyal Cougars and hurl your challenge to the foe.
We will fight, day or night, rain or snow.
Loyal, strong, and true Wear the white and blue.
While we sing, get set to spring. Come on Cougars it’s up to you. Oh!

Rise and shout, the Cougars are out
along the trail to fame and glory.
Rise and shout, our cheers will ring out
as you unfold your victr’y story.
On you go to vanquish the foe
for Alma Mater’s sons and daughters.
As we join in song,
in praise of you, our faith is strong.
We’ll raise our colors high in the blue
and cheer our Cougars of BYU.

Play Slideshow
BYU's Smith Fieldhouse
BYU Athletics Weight Room
Men's Volleyball Locker Room
Brigham Young University – Athletic Creative Services © 2009