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The BYU Cougars are the collegiate athletic teams that represent Brigham Young University, a major university in Provo, Utah. BYU has 21 NCAA varsity athletic teams. They are a member of the West Coast Conference for most sports. Other sports compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and as independents. They were a member of the Mountain West Conference (MW) from its formation in 1999 until leaving in 2011 as part of a major NCAA conference realignment. Before the formation of the MW, the Cougars competed in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, the Mountain States Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference.
All teams are named the "Cougars", a name that was first introduced by Eugene L. Roberts in the 1920s, initially only applied to the football team. In 1924 two live cougar kittens named Cleo and Tarbo were brought to BYU and used as its mascots. In 1930 Tarbo died and Cleo was sent to the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. By the 1950s all sports teams were known as the Cougars and it was decided that having a person in a costume was a better mascot form than live animals. In 1953 Cosmo the Cougar was created by Dwayne Stevenson. The school's fight song is the "Cougar Fight Song".
BYU is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and the overwhelming majority of its students are members of that church. Because many of its players serve on full-time missions for two years, BYU's athletes are often older on average than other school's players. The NCAA allows students to serve missions for two years without subtracting that time from their eligibility period. This has caused minor controversy, but is largely recognized as not lending the school any significant advantage, since players receive no athletic and little physical training during their missions. BYU has also received attention from sports networks for refusal to play games on Sunday, as well as expelling players due to honor code violations.