COMMENTARY — Word is out by now, and most folks aren’t happy about the University of Utah’s decision to drop BYU from its schedule in 2013 and 2014. Unfortunately, there’s nothing any of us can do about it.
I’ve lived in the Beehive State for about 30 years now and I can honestly say the BYU-Utah football game was the most anticipated sporting event of the season for me.
Certainly I love high school sports and there’s nothing quite like the spectacle of the Super Bowl, but one thing I could always count on was that BYU-Utah game. It was probably going to be close. It was going to be intense. It was going to be debated and argued about for weeks before and after. It was like an old friend that we all got to visit once a year.
Some of the comments online from southern Utah’s own Utah and BYU fans surprised me. One dyed-in-the-wool Ute called it Karma, a comeuppance to BYU fans for being, “pompous, self righteous schmucks (who) rubbed (it) in our faces annually,” a reference to BYU’s dominance in the rivalry in the 1980s and 1990s.
BYU fans countered, saying Utah fans are, “just stirring the pot cuz the Utes are scared to play BYU. They don’t want the non-conference loss.”
After reading these and many other posts, I decided to talk to some of the guys who are really close to the situation.
Kelly Smith, a professor at Dixie State College of Utah and longtime southern Utah resident, played for BYU and was a running back on the Cougars national championship team in 1984.
“It’s so sad, no matter the reason,” he said. “It’s a tragedy for the whole state. This was an event that meant more than the records of the two teams. It was something that was talked about all year long, that we bragged about and cheered about.”
Smith, who never lost to Utah while wearing a BYU uniform, said he still enjoyed the games and the intensity of the rivalry.
“I am one BYU fan who cheered for Utah every game except when they played BYU,” he said. “We wanted them to be good, to give us a great game. And the last few years the games have been very competitive. It’s just a agreat annual event and to lose that would be so sad.”
University of Utah fan and radio broadcaster Dwayne Vance actually agrees with Smith.
“I’m very disappointed in the U for doing this,” he said. “It was truly a measuring stick for the two schools, especially now that they are not in the same conference. Whatever (Utah athletic director) Chris Hill’s excuse is, a balanced schedule or whatever, I think it’s a bunch of nonsense.”
Vance makes a good point. With the two teams no longer competing in the same conference, who can say which team is better when the season ends. You could compare common opponents and team records, but the only true way to settle the argument was on the field.
Vance, who has been a season-ticket holder for more than two decades to Utah football and basketball, does not mince words when he sums up his feelings about this:
“Utah is being a bunch of wusses,” he said. “If you want to play with the big boys, you have to act like a big boy and not run away from your main rival. There is no other reason not to play this game except Utah is being gutless. I think we should play BYU every year and it should be the first game of the year. Then we have all summer to build up to the greatest rivalry.
Let’s hope Utah and BYU can return the rivalry to its former glory after a two-year hiatus and repair what has come to be known as The Holy War.
Andy Griffin is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Email: [email protected]
Copyright 2012 St. George News.
Utah will play BYU at Provo in 2013. The years the teams will not play are 2014 and 2015. Then, BYU plays the Utes at Rice-Eccles again in 2016. The seasons after that are anyone’s guess at this point. This Ute fan would like to see the annual matchup resume then, but I do think the rivalry needs a rest for a couple of years and see the break as good. The fact that so many people are bent out of shape over the U’s decision is reason enough to give people time to put the game in its proper perspective.