BYU will be warmly welcomed when the Cougars return to the Valley of the Sun.

BYU fans in the Phoenix area had been eagerly awaiting Tuesday’s announcement, marking the Cougars’ return to the Valley of the Sun for the first time since 2016. BYU will face Arizona State on November 23 as part of the Big 12 Conference.

This return was made possible through a series of improbable events:

1. Texas and Oklahoma announced their unexpected departure from the Big 12 to join the SEC, effective July 1.
2. In need of replacements, the Big 12 quickly invited BYU, which joined the conference on July 1, 2023.
3. The Pac-12 collapsed after USC, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon left for the Big Ten.
4. Arizona State, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado found a new home in the Big 12, joining officially on August 2.
5. The Big 12’s 16-team schedule was configured to include a BYU game at Arizona State on November 23, just before Thanksgiving.

For BYU fans, Las Vegas and Phoenix rival Utah in terms of fandom, with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints having a strong presence and many alumni in these areas. Historically, BYU games in these locations draw large crowds.

The last time BYU played in the Phoenix area was in 2016, when they played a neutral site game against Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. The game drew 50,528 fans, mostly BYU supporters, and saw freshman Jake Oldroyd kick a game-winning 33-yard field goal as time expired.

BYU was scheduled to play at Arizona State on September 19, 2020, but the game was canceled due to the Pac-12’s COVID-19 restrictions. In November, BYU aims to fill Mountain America Stadium in Tempe, which has a capacity of 53,599, capitalizing on Arizona State’s football program currently undergoing a major rebuild.

Following the Big 12 announcement, Duane Oakes, BYU Southwest Region Chapter director, immediately contacted the Arizona State ticket office to secure as many tickets as possible for BYU fans, anticipating that BYU supporters could fill at least a third of the stadium.

There are 439,000 Latter-day Saints and over 14,000 BYU alumni in Arizona, many within driving distance of Tempe. A BYU Alumni Association FanFest is planned for May 18 in the Phoenix-Gilbert area, aiming to rally fans for the fall game. Michael Johanson, director of BYU Alumni Relations, highlighted the importance of these events in gathering and mobilizing Cougar Nation.

Additionally, BYU will hold a FanFest in Dallas on April 27, ahead of their game against SMU on September 6.

Historically, BYU and Arizona State have split their last 10 meetings, with BYU winning the last three. They haven’t played in Tempe since BYU’s 13-10 victory in 1997. The upcoming game could be crucial for BYU’s bowl eligibility, given its late-season timing.