The atmosphere in the Marriott Center was electric and rockin’ during the BYU/Baylor game. A sold-out crowd of 22,000 enjoyed one of the greatest college games ever played in that arena. Watching that game brought back some special memories.

There was a time, not so long ago, that the Magic of the Marriott Center did not exist as we know it today. During that 1-25 season of 1996-97, the Marriott Center was like an empty cavern. There were those faithful fans, but the numbers were frightfully low.

I arrived at BYU following that season and knew immediately we had to get the students back in the Marriott Center. My staff, players and Cosmo were knocking on dormitory doors, giving away T-shirts, hats, posters and free tickets. It was almost like a traveling circus. We pleaded with them to come back and support the program. Our next target was student housing off-campus, and weekly visits during lunch at the Wilkinson Center. I felt like an unknown politician, speaking two to three times a week trying to get people to believe in our vision for the program.

The vision was simple: Let’s bring the magic back to the Marriott Center.

I knew this was not going to happen overnight. My staff and the players were passionate, but the fan base still seemed disinterested. Doing this in the shadow of an elite Final Four Utah program didn’t make it any easier.

Long story short, step by step, we continued to develop a strong relationship with the students and the community. Then, a really good thing happened. We started to win! Nine wins, 12 wins, 22 wins and then 24 wins!

It took four years, but the “Magic” was back in the Marriott Center.

I will be forever grateful to my staff, players, and most of all, the students and fans who believed that BYU could once again get back to winning championships, NCAA bids and competing at a national level.

Thank you for believing and supporting us when it wasn’t the popular thing to do. I will never forget those early days of rebuilding. It was a privilege for me to be a part of something so special, and associate with such outstanding coaches and players.

Coach Rose, his staff and all of the players over the past six years have taken this program to an elite national level. The future is bright for years to come, with young outstanding talent and the most magical arena in college basketball!

FYI:

Due to the holidays, my next blog post won't go up until Jan. 4. I'll do a preview on the WCC and provide insights on the upcoming conference matchups. My next broadcast on BYUtv will be BYU vs. San Marcos on Dec. 28.

I will have analysis and updates on Twitter (@coachcleve22) for the Buffalo and UCSB games. Both of those games will be broadcast live on BYUtv.

Happy Holidays!

Coach Cleve