byu, college football, Utes

BYU v Utah: what this rivalry means

byu utah kalani.jpgIt’s rivalry week and one that I look forward to every year, with somewhat measured enthusiasm. The rivalry means something to me, 100% and I will not pretend it doesn’t. I grew up a Cougar, but became a Ute. Its a unique position to know what the other side feels. This game is personal for so many fans and represents more than just a game.

BYU v Utah

The sound bites go back decades, with the one-liners used often and repeated…sometimes you just hope for new material, but it rarely happens. The stories of he said this, and that fan did that, goes on and on. There have been some harrowing reports and I have been largely embarrassed of some things that Ute fans have done. Rather than getting into the antics and the trolls, I want to get to the heart of the fight. The crux of it all is basically this – who is the better human.

The most petty and often occurring human condition of comparison.


BYU scoring.jpgWhether warranted or not BYU (mostly warranted as BYU is a private institution of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and is ranked consistently as the top university in the state of Utah and ranks high in other national rankings for academics) is perceived as thinking it is (it being the students, faculty, supporters, etc. – for what is an institution without its people) better than other institutions of higher learning. BYU views itself as a leader in the world in academics and education, providing the best experience for students. And to be fair, most colleges want that and think that… to an extent.

One key difference is that this notion is taken to another level due to the fact that this is not a publicly funded school, or an Ivy league school, or just some religious school. Frankly, there is no adequate comparison due to BYUs unique nature, size, and core beliefs. The mission of BYU bears this difference out. BYU’s mission is to “is to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life…and the full realization of human potential is pursued.” That is not a traditional mission statement. Take a look a Notre Dame’s mission statement:

As a Catholic university, one of its distinctive goals is to provide a forum where, through free inquiry and open discussion, the various lines of Catholic thought may intersect with all the forms of knowledge found in the arts, sciences, professions, and every other area of human scholarship and creativity.

Or how about the University of Utah’s:

The University of Utah fosters student success by preparing students from diverse backgrounds for lives of impact as leaders and citizens. We generate and share new knowledge, discoveries, and innovations, and we engage local and global communities to promote education, health, and quality of life. These contributions, in addition to responsible stewardship of our intellectual, physical, and financial resources, ensure the long‐term success and viability of the institution.

BYU’s goal is so much bigger than academics or diversity, and sure more than sports, it’s about perfection and eternal life. And that makes a profound impact in its messaging and the ideology that BYU supporters subscribe to.

Finally, by basic default, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are fans. There are about 6.6 million member of The Church in the United States, or 2% of the population, which is actually a significant religious demographic. These members of The Church expect the school of their school to win. It is literally the University of their Church. Who is on the Lord’s side?

Religious Preference in the United States, 2011 vs. 2012

I am not trying to be flippant or sacrilegious. Players pray before games. In war each side thinks God is on their side. If you go to a church and they have a school, you would root for that school and probably think God is on your side.  Piousness can be misinterpreted and even executed incorrectly. Just look to Twitter or other outlets for fans to throw up ridiculous takes.


BYU_Utah_LasVegasBowl_2015_getty_0The edge of the Utes fans come from an absolute disregard for that which is holy. Nothing if off limits, as many fans were former member of The Church, or know The Church intimately (many pretend they do as well), knowing the teaching and ceremonies, and mock them openly. Having personally witnessed and been a ear on the wall to more than a few conversations and actions that make my face red with embarrassment. But that is what make the Ute fanbase so… frustrating… that isn’t even the right word… scary? When you have someone that doesn’t play by the same rules as you, well that is scary. How do you combat that? Its like the dude that wrestled in HS and is playing pick up ball with you. He is literally all over you. And that can be uncomfortable and alarming.

And the recent winning streak has been not helping the BYU fanbase. This weekend could make it eight straight. Many fans have viewed this as a former rivalry and even players have said as much.

I remember shortly after the Utes left the Mountain West Conference, there were Pac 12 stickers all over Salt Lake. Every car, hat, and shirt branded with Pac 12. It was validation. Like, “Hey we made it!” For many fans, the sticker in the back window was a way to put the heated rivalry behind them and make BYU the little brother for good. Without the Mt. West conference championship on the line, how could it mean more than just a game. At least that is what fans say.

Season Champion(s) Conf.
Bowl result
1999 Utah 5–2 9–3 Won Las Vegas Bowl
BYU 5–2 8–4 Lost Motor City Bowl
Colorado State 5–2 8–4 Lost Liberty Bowl
2000 No. 14 Colorado State 6–1 10–2 Won Liberty Bowl
2001 No. 25 BYU 7–0 12–2 Lost Liberty Bowl
2002 Colorado State 6–1 10–4 Lost Liberty Bowl
2003 No. 21 Utah 6–1 10–2 Won Liberty Bowl
2004 No. 4 Utah 7–0 12–0 Won Fiesta Bowl
2005 No. 11 TCU 8–0 11–1 Won Houston Bowl
2006 No. 16 BYU 8–0 11–2 Won Las Vegas Bowl
2007 No. 14 BYU 8–0 11–2 Won Las Vegas Bowl
2008 No. 2 Utah 8–0 13–0 Won Sugar Bowl

Maybe its true. I don’t know. I admit I have a weird relationship with my former team. Still recalling the names of some of my greats that held my heart (Luke Staley, Doug Jolly, Dennis Pitta, Austin Colle, John beck). Before I went to Utah I went to a viewing party for the 2008 Sugar Bowl and rooted for Alabama…. Yes. I did cause I still loved my Cougars. Then fast forward to a few months later when I am sitting in the Muss, shouting out the fight son and feeling that I am a Utah man, Sir! How quickly I have forgotten my fathers..

Now, I only want the Cougs to do so well. When they beat Wisconsin this year, my first thought was, “Can’t wait to hear what BYU fans think will happen next – here we come New Years six!” Losing to BYU would result in a cataclysmic mental breakdown!

The reality of both programs is that its going to be tough to be consistently at the top. These schools can never be the blue bloods of college football. There is so much going against them. And part of the problem is that both side has unrealistic expectations of who they are in the now. BYU isn’t a national championship contender and neither is Utah. Those remarkable years were not the norm. It takes time and luck to get to those spots in history. And that is okay! Having a winning record is hard. I am not saying settle, but re-align the expectations and have fun with this game, which is for all of the bragging rights in the whole entire…. state of Utah.

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