The size of a school’s fan base has become a hot button issue in college football the last few years. The Brigham Young Cougars took steps towards building an international fan base 35 years ago.
At the end of the 1977 season, BYU was WAC champions. Commitment to not playing on Sunday prevented BYU from post-season play in the Fiesta Bowl. Thanks to the Japanese Government, BYU’s excellent 9-2 season did not go unrewarded. BYU was invited to play two exhibition games against Japanese All-Star teams.
It was a 10-day vacation for the BYU football team to the land of the rising sun. For wide receiver Lynn Zwahlen it was a free trip back to where he served his mission.
The games were dubbed the Silk Bowl. All-Stars was a misnomer for these Japanese teams. They gave BYU as much of a fight as Utah State (the Cougars beat the Aggies 65-6 in 1977). In the two games, quarterback Marc Wilson played sparingly and BYU still outscored the Japanese by over 100 points.
The Japanese were good sports. Despite the drubbing, a relationship was forged and BYU was invited to return the next year. This invitation was contingent up the Cougars bring their own competition. The BYU fan footprint now spread all the way across the Pacific Ocean and onto the Asian Continent.
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