An unofficial guide to BYU’s acronym-filled campus


byu campus

My oldest son is beginning his first semester at Brigham Young University this fall, so I decided to help him (and others) get around the alphabet-soup-of-acronyms that is the BYU campus.

Let’s start with the Tanner Building, the bridge between upper campus and lower campus. Some people refer to the Tanner Building (TNRB) as the box that the Salt Lake Temple came in because of its gleaming granite-looking exterior. Contrary to what many current students believe, it’s not named for quarterback Tanner Mangum (it was named for former member of the LDS Church First Presidency, N. Eldon Tanner).

The Tanner Building is home to the Marriott School of Management (MSM). Speaking of Marriott, we have the J. Willard Marriott Center (MC) — which, at 19,000 seats, is one of the largest on-campus arenas in the country. Back in the early 1970s, BYU’s administrators couldn’t figure out what to call the new activities facility so they held a contest. The first prize for the best name was $100. Then hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott swooped in and donated $1 million. Contest over. Since then, considering the BYU basketball team’s record at home is 448–119, very few visitors enjoy a good night at this Marriott.

Originally, the Marriott Center was called the Marriott Activities Center (MAC), which people started to call the “Big Mac.” That created a whopper of a problem for school officials, who ended that nickname by taking “Activities” out of the title.

Originally, the Marriott Center was called the Marriott Activities Center (MAC), which people started to call the “Big Mac.”

The Marriott Center houses the ROC (“Roar of Cougars”), the student section that provides raucous support at basketball and football games. ROC can also describe the place where the zealous students camp out the night before games — they sleep on the ROC-hard ground.

Football games, of course, take place at LaVell Edwards Stadium (LES), formerly known as Cougar Stadium, which is located north of campus. With the Wasatch Mountains as a picturesque backdrop and remarkable tradition, you’ll find that LES is more when it comes to college football settings.

On the lower end of campus, you’ve got the Richards Building (RB), and at any given time you’ll probably find RBs from the football team hanging out there, playing basketball.

The RB is next to the George Albert Smith Fieldhouse (SFH) — and please do not call it the Smithfield House, which is somewhere just north of Utah State. A track, volleyball courts and coaches’ offices are inside the SFH. The Smith Fieldhouse is not to be confused with Joseph F. Smith Building (JFSB), which is not to be confused with the Joseph Smith Building (JSB). The JFSB is home to the History, Sociology and School of Family Life departments while the JSB is home to the College of Religion. Go figure.

At the center of campus there’s the Harold B. Lee Library (HBLL), which is BYU’s study hangout. The HBLL houses the second-largest family history facility in the world and has more than eight million items, including three million volumes of books in the university’s library collection. It’s a place so vast that you could get lost in there, which may not be a bad thing if you’re trying to avoid an old girlfriend or paying tuition.

The HBLL is adjacent to the 498,000-square foot Ernest L. Wilkinson Center (WSC), aka “The Wilk,” which is regarded as the campus living room. You can go bowling, catch a flick at the Varsity Theater, mail a package at the post office, play board games (you can check them out, really) and refuel at the Cougareat Food Court. And you can look for diamond rings and housing contracts on the The Wilk Board, which is kind of like the 1980s version of Ebay.

Cougareat started out as the school cafeteria, but now it truly resembles the food court at University Mall (does that title refer to Utah Valley University or BYU or both?). It has a Chick-fil-A, a Papa John’s and a Taco Bell. Cougareat Food Court doesn’t have an abbreviation, but I suppose it’s just as well. CFC sounds a lot like CDC (Center of Disease Control). Might hurt business.

For desert, may I recommend the Creamery On Ninth East, appropriately abbreviated as CONE, where you can order unique BYU ice cream favorites like “Bishop’s Bash,” “LaVell’s Vanilla,” and “Rose’s Sneakerdoodle.” No, I’m not making those up.

After eating dessert, you can work off some of those calories by climbing to the top of the 12-story Spencer W. Kimball Tower (SWKT), also known as “The Swicket,” and take in the beautiful view of campus. Ironically, while President Kimball stood barely over five feet tall, the building that bears his name is the tallest building in Provo.

Speaking of former prophets, there’s the Heber J. Grant Building (HGB), more popularly known as the Testing Center. This has to be the most unpopular building on campus and I doubt that President Grant is happy about his name being associated with such a place. I still have nightmares about my encounters there when I was a student, so that’s all I have to say about that.

There’s the Heber J. Grant Building (HGB), more popularly known as the Testing Center. This has to be the most unpopular building on campus and I doubt that President Grant is happy about his name being associated with such a place.

One building that mainly consists of lecture halls is the Thomas L. Martin Building (MARB). While there are plenty of classrooms and places to hold sacrament meetings (hence the many pianos), to my knowledge, there’s no marble in the MARB.

Each hour and half-hour on campus, you’ll hear bells tolling a tune based on the hymn “Come, Come Ye Saints.” That sound comes from the Centennial Carillon Tower, abbreviated as BELL, which is a catchier title than CCT. The Bell Tower was erected in 1975 to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the school’s founding. Thanks to the BELL, there’s no need to carry a watch around campus.

One of the largest buildings on campus is the Franklin S. Harris Fine Arts Center (HFAC). It is also colloquially known as FiSHFAC, which makes it sound like a place where students can hold a fish fry on a Friday night. The HFAC houses the School of Music, the Department of Theatre and Media Arts, the Department of Visual Arts and the Division of Design and Production. Who knows how many “Studio C” cast members and crew were spawned from this building? It’s basically BYU’s own version of Broadway.

At one time the Jesse Knight Building (JKB) was the headquarters of the school’s business school. That name made sense, since Jesse Knight was a nineteen-century LDS mining magnate. But after the Tanner Building was completed in 1988, the JKB became the College of Humanities. Later, with the construction of the JFSB in 2005, non-humanities institutions moved into the building (aliens, perhaps?). That’s why the JKB is no longer known as the Jesse Knight Humanities Building (JKHB) as it once was.

If you want to really broaden your horizons, pay a visit to the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum (MLBM). No, it’s not named after the British sitcom character, Mr. Bean, though you will find many of lizard-like creatures there.

And, finally, on the northeast side of campus you’ll find the Missionary Training Center (MTC). While most people understand exactly what the MTC is without spelling it out, it can be perplexing to those not of our faith. Once, 7-foot-6 BYU basketball player Shawn Bradley was conducting a phone interview with a East Coast media outlet and Bradley explained to the reporter that he would be spending a few weeks in the MTC before going to Australia for his two-year missionary service. The reporter was confused.

“What,” the reporter asked Bradley, “is the Empty Seat?”

Bradley could have replied that Empty Seat could be a good nickname for the MTC, since there aren’t many empty seats in the crowded MTC.

So there’s a little guide to BYU’s campus. Got all that? There will be a quiz later.


Jeff Call has covered BYU sports since 1993, including the past 16 years for the Deseret News. He, his wife and six sons live in Cedar Hills.

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