A cougar statue located near the southwest corner of LaVell Edwards Stadium after being vandalized by four University of Utah fans on the morning of September 9, 2017.

Four University of Utah fans were caught “red-handed” at Brigham Young University (BYU) early Saturday morning — 13 hours prior to the highly-anticipated rivalry football game between the two schools.

A cougar statue at BYU, a gift from the class of 1965, was found spray-painted with the red block “U” logo and expletives. The statue is located near the southwest gates of LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Provo police were called to the scene by an eyewitness who saw the group vandalizing the statue at about 4:50 a.m.

Clues led to four individuals in the area who smelled strongly of paint. They were questioned and later cited.

“We received a description that there were two males and two females involved,” said BYU campus police Lt. Steven Messick. “Two or three of them had red spray paint on their hands.”

The individuals admitted to tagging the statue and police found evidence in their vehicle, which also smelled like spray paint.

Police cited the four with misdemeanors for criminal mischief and released them. Those individuals have been banned from BYU’s campus.

“Defacing property on any campus should never be acceptable,” said Kaylee Crossley, who earned her undergraduate degree at BYU and is now a graduate student at the U. “There are better ways to show support for your team. From my experiences interacting with the student body at the U, I feel that it is a disgrace to the general student body and does not reflect the values of the university.”

The paint had been removed from the statue early Saturday afternoon, just hours ahead of the 8:15 p.m. competition.

In regards to the game, Lt. Messick advised, “I’d encourage people to have fun with the rivalry, but to stay away from the criminal mischief that lies with it.”

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