Utah alumni take steps to make BYU fans feel welcome at Rice-Eccles during rivalry game

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SALT LAKE CITY — Mary Thorton is more than an organizer at this stadium, she’s a dedicated fan.

“In 2010 Utah played Notre Dame, and there was quite a contingency of Utah players that went there,” said Mary Thorton, head of the Alumni Ambassador Program.

Thorton is so dedicated she’s traveled all the way to Notre Dame’s stadium to support her Utes. She said they thought they would win that game in 2010, but instead they lost and then got rained on.

“But all of us went away from that game feeling like we are so glad we came to Notre Dame, and it was because they were so warm and welcoming,” Thorton said.

Mary wanted visitors at the U of U to have that same feeling, so she started the Alumni Ambassador Program.

“We can do this, we’re a warm, welcoming community,” Thorton said. “We have great fans, and we can elevate everyone’s experience when they come here.”

The program has grown to 60 volunteers, who will work alongside ushers.

“So you can look for the green jackets, we’re pretty visible and easy to find,” Thorton said.

They’ll be at every gate and portal, and doubling up in the BYU fan section this weekend.

“If they’re lost, help children find their parents, anything that they might need to do, we’re there to help them to make it be a positive experience,” Thorton said.

And it’s not just the alumni ambassadors working to make everyone feel welcome, there’s also a push for students at the U to participate in a pledge called “Fan up”, which relates to practicing good behavior at games.

“Fan up like man up; make us Utes proud,” Thorton said.

They feel a welcoming atmosphere is important for every game, but especially for the ‘Holy War.’

“We do want the BYU people to feel welcome when they come here, so I know my ambassadors will do that, I know that we’ll have a lot of Utah fans that will treat them with a welcoming hand,” Thorton said.