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BYU alumni bring away games home to their school’s mission

B … Y … Yinz.

Julie Russin has lived and worked in a couple of different places in the country and she’s a proud graduate of Brigham Young University.

Even so, she said, she can still break out some hometown Pittsburghese when she has to.

“I mainly do it for fun,” said Russin, who is president of BYU’s Pittsburgh Alumni Chapter and grew up just north of the city.

“It’s a great dialect,” she said. “And my dad was real yinzer.”

There’s something else: She attended Pitt for two before transferring to BYU – “So I know all about big games in Morgantown.”

Tonight’s big game in Morgantown, of course, is the one lining up the Mountaineers of WVU against the Cougars of BYU.

Kickoff for the nationally televised contest is 7 p.m. at Milan Puskar Stadium.

This won’t be the first time the teams have met on the football field. That happened in 2016 at a neutral site in Maryland. WVU narrowly bested BYU, 35-32.

Meanwhile, Russin will be in the stands tonight, along with some 2,000 others, of the BYU faithful.

Maybe even more, she’s thinking.

“We’re all over the Northeast and Southeast,” she said.

“If you live in North Carolina, you’re not going to make it out to Provo, Utah, for the game. But you can drive up to Morgantown.”

Hitting the books

This is BYU’s first-ever trip to the University City, and the school’s alumni, she said, are going to make it count today.

That will come by way of the school’s “COUGS CARE” initiative.

Through networking by alumni on both sides of the 50-yard line, BYU’s School of Education is teaming with the School of Education on the WVU campus to launch a book drive for young readers.

Books will go the WVU Nursery School and to the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties, Russin said.

It’s about promoting literacy in a state where reading scores in school have been flagging in recent years, due in part to COVID.

Call it, road-tripping, and tailgating, with a purpose, Russin said.

COUGS CARE has been part of her school’s away game proceedings since 2019 when alumni launched a food drive for local residents during the Tennessee game.

Another food drive in Arkansas was offered for local residents while Cougars and Razorbacks went at it on the football field.

Books were donated to the Native American Student Services division at the University of Kansas.

“This is something we can do,” she said. “This is something we should do.”

After all, she said: Some things go beyond four quarters of football.

Living it, walking it

She grew up in the Mormon faith in Pittsburgh.

Her parents, who were both raised Roman Catholic, started exploring what would become a new direction on their faith after two Mormon missionaries knocked on their door one day – and they let them in, to talk.

When Russin launched her own mission trip that Mormonism requires of its young followers, it was to Ukraine, where she lived and did outreach for two years, from 2006 to 2008.

Today, she watches news of Putin’s invasion “with a broken heart,” she said.

All that work, she said, comes under the school’s creed: “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.”

“That’s the first thing you hear when you hit campus,” she said.

“I think when you graduate, you come away with a real sense of who you are, and where you are, in the world.”

Game day

But don’t think it’s all serious, she said.

Russin’s job in software constantly has her in rental cars and airplane seats.

Even so, on football Saturdays in fall, you’ll likely find her in a stadium seat – or at least in front of her TV.

That’s because it’s BYU, she said.

“I know it’s gonna be a good game today. Go Cougs.”