Utah State students stage silent protest during loss to Denver

The most unusual aspect of Utah State's 67-54 loss to Denver on Wednesday night wasn't that the Aggies lost at the Spectrum after 33 consecutive home wins.

It was that maybe the nation's most creative, ear-splitting student section was eerily silent at the opening tipoff.

Already angered by the letter of apology their school president sent BYU regarding taunts aimed at forward Brandon Davies last month, Utah State students grew more irate when an usher warned them Wednesday not to lean over the railings or do certain traditional chants. As a result, the entire Utah State student section staged a silent protest, remaining dead quiet for the first three minutes of the game.

Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes said by phone on Thursday that the protest was a result of a miscommunication between the usher and the school's facilities department. Barnes emphasized the school administration has not created any new policies regarding fan conduct and that the usher acted on his own in warning the students not to point at any opposing players or single them out with chants.

"The usher asked for some things that aren't policy and that we would not ever enforce," Barnes said. "I have talked to that usher directly to coach him up on that. But what was said by an usher went viral immediately and became a new policy and it wasn't. The usher took it upon himself to suggest some things we were going to do that we had not signed off on."

Barnes said he plans to meet with students on Tuesday to dispel any misunderstandings and he's optimistic both sides will be able to put this issue behind them. That will be welcome news to Utah State players and coaches, who admitted after Wednesday's game they noticed student turnout was lower and the crowd wasn't as deafening as usual against Denver.

"When you have a certain atmosphere for a long time and then it's radically different in your own home building ... it was eerie," assistant coach Tim Duryea told 97.5 The Zone on Thursday morning.

"The one thing I've always been proud of our students for is I think they go to the line but very rarely cross the line. It's a tough call because you can legislate the fun right out of the Spectrum. It's such a unique place with such a unique atmosphere. ... To take that away I think would really be a shame. I hope it doesn't go that direction."

Whether it's the ubiquitous "I believe that we will win" and "winning team, losing team" chants or the antics of "Wild Bill," the Utah State student section has garnered headlines for mostly positive reasons the past few years. The exception was the season opener against BYU when signs and chants aimed at Davies' honor code violation from last spring toed the line between funny and mean-spirited.

One read "Welcome Back Brandon...," while a poster next to it said, "From your fornication probation." Another said, "Hide your kids, Hide your wife, Davies is coming." A third said, "Davies, I've had better."

Swearing, vulgarity and racial slurs are three of the only things Barnes said Utah State won't tolerate from fans at games, but he's confident that will not be an issue going forward.

"I don't have any concerns about us working this out," Barnes said. "There isn't a better student support group in the nation than ours. It's unbelievable what our students do and we want to foster that."

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