Thursday was a sad day for the BYU faithful who realized that their most-hated rival might not want to keep up the series.
BYU and Utah have played in the same conference since 1909 and have created one of the more bitter rivalries in all of college sports. But with Utah leaving for the Pac-10 for the 2011 season, there’s no word on whether the rivalry will continue and BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe didn’t seem confident the series would continue.
“BYU and Utah have over time developed one of the storied rivalries in college athletics,” Holmoe said in a statement released from the school. “Utah’s move to a different conference will certainly have an effect on the rivalry; however, at this point it’s hard to know to what extent. [Utah athletic director] Dr. Chris Hill and I have a very good relationship and will certainly be talking about this in the future. For now, we’re grateful for the long tradition of athletic competition between the two schools.”
Hill took a more positive approach:
“It is my expectation that there may be some complications right away but it is our full intention to continue with that passionate rivalry,” he said.
I asked fans what they thought about the rivalry continuing and got a great response. Here are some of your thoughts:
Dale from Norman, Okla., writes: BYU v. Utah will continue for many years to come, but the venue will simply change to the Las Vegas Bowl. BYU will continue their strong tradition of playing in Vegas each post-season with a conference championship, or a second place finish behind TCU or BSU, and I have serious doubts that Utah will be able to surpass 4th/5th in the PAC-12.
Graham: I like your optimism about the Cougars, but you’re selling them a bit short aren’t you? How about them playing in a BCS bowl? I’m just saying. However, I think the likelihood of these two teams meeting in the Las Vegas Bowl often, if the Pac-10 remains tied to it, is probably pretty high.
Mark from Augusta, Ga., writes: Honestly, I don't care if we (Utah) ever play BYU again. They've become obnoxiously "little brother-ish" lately. If you listen to the ESPN interview with Dick Harmon (the lead BYU reporter from the Deseret News), you will understand what I mean. His comments were all about how much better BYU was, and why BYU wasn't getting the bid instead of Utah. That sort of rhetoric has become typical of the relationship between the two schools, and it's less than healthy. It's also become a little too heated lately IMHO. Perhaps the best thing is a cooling off period, and we can try again in a few years. But Utah v. Utah State? That rivalry is the sixth longest in college football - within one game of Army v. Navy - and it is over 115 years old. It's not nearly as competitive, but I'd rather keep that one alive.
Graham: This is an interesting perspective, Mark. I too think the rivalry between BYU and Utah has crossed the line in some respects and might benefit from a timeout. However, what’s a rivalry without a little vitriol?
Dave W. from Salt Lake City writes: As a BYU fan I will be sad if the Holy War disappears. I don't think it will entirely, especially at first. I do think over time the game loses luster. If BYU can't make it into an AQ conference or have the MWC turned into one, the rivalry will eventually die. Utah will have little to play for as a team struggling in the middle of the Pac-12 and so why will they want to risk their record with a quality opponent?
Graham: Yeah, I agree with that. I can’t see Utah wanting to make its schedule any tougher than it has to be, and within a couple years it’ll be able to afford to do that. BYU will probably stay strong in the Mountain West, especially with some of the recruits it’s picking up, and Utah doesn't want to start its AQ life off on a bad foot.
Matt from Salt Lake City writes: BYU/Utah Rivalry, what a ride it's been. I'm a Utah grad with deep roots as a fan in BYU athletics. My father was a 3 time All-WAC tackle for the Cougars back in the 70's. My Uncle was an O-line guard for Jim McMahon. They both said the same thing, "You have no idea what's it like on the field when we played the Utes. It was another level of competition where anything could happen. The entire season for both sides rested on the last game of the season and a win against the other." It's a shame, a horrible shame, that Utah has left for the PAC-10. People who say this rivalry won't fade and will be fierce as ever are fooling themselves. So many conference titles have been decided by that last game of the season. Even if they schedule each other every year, there's only bragging rights from a game in September. No more will the WAC or MWC trophies of old be hoisted into the trophy case because of a win against the team "up north" or "down south" For me, as a fan who loves both teams, this is a sad time for Utah sports. Call me a downer, but a single invite to the Utes just blow out the flame that has been burning since 1896. The Holy War is no more.
Graham: Wow, that’s a somber look at the situation, but I have a feeling you’re probably right.
Big V from Oakland, Calif., writes: As a passionate fan of a Pac-10 institution (in spite of what Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe may think), I think it is of extreme importance for Utah to maintain its rivalry with BYU. I am in favor of Utah joining the conference however, of the looming issues with their membership would be the lack of a natural rival within the conference. Yet this problem is solved by maintaining the Holy War series between Utah and Brigham Young. This game means more than conference titles to these institutions, this is about who owns the state of Utah on the gridiron, and furthermore represents a great example of a classic collegiate rivalry archetype: large state operated public institution vs. privately owned and operated institution (the Pac-10 currently has two rivalries of this type). This rivalry is also one of the oldest in the west, with nearly 90 meetings. The secular/religious angle of this rivalry gives it an added level of intrigue. Finally, the conference already see two of its institutions engage in rivalry games with a school not in the conference, with both Stanford and USC facing Notre Dame each season, so a precedent already exists for Utah to schedule BYU should the Pac-10 continue to play 9 conference games.
Graham: Colorado is kind of going through the same thing with Nebraska, though that rivalry hasn't been nearly as important to a conference as BYU-Utah, and the Buffs have a fallback with Colorado State, a rivalry that’s guaranteed for at least another decade. Maybe, as another astute reader pointed out, Utah and Utah State will start ratcheting things up. I know it’s not as fierce as BYU-Utah, but from the Utes' perspective it’s probably a better game to play considering that Utah State is still growing.
Will from Provo, Utah, writes: Obviously as a BYU fan I want the rivalry to stay alive, but I'm not so sure that Utah wants it. If BYU wins the rivalry game it's a kick in the teeth to the school in the "BCS Conference" but it Utah wins it's expected that they should because "they are in the better conference." It's basically a no win situation for Utah.
Graham: Yeah, but I think voters and good fans are smarter that. They know that this game means a heck of a lot more and that this rivalry dates back more than 100 years. People won’t discount that. But, you are right that Utah probably won’t want to chance it and I don’t blame the Utes as they're trying to establish credibility in their new conference.