The University of Utah vs. Brigham Young University. It’s a rivalry that knows no bounds.
A recent Sports Illustrated poll showed that 89 percent of Utah residents picked Utah vs. BYU as the state’s best rivalry. Coming in second was BYU-Utah State with a whopping 3 percent.
The Utah-BYU rivalry is frequently called The Holy War—or The Unholy War. For avid U and Y fans, it is not just a game, it is not a “battle of the brothers” like the Utah-Utah State rivalry, and it is seldom friendly.
Just after the birth of my son, an elderly friend, cooing over the newborn, said sweetly, “Look at his arms and legs. I bet he grows up to play for BYU!”
My crimson-bred blood began to heat up. A multitude of responses filled my mind, none of which seemed appropriate. I glanced at my wife and the horror in her eyes led to the greatest moment of self-discipline in my life.
I let the comment pass.
Although I bit my tongue, others have not managed as well. To wit:
“When Brigham Young came into the valley, he pointed to where the University of Utah would be and said, ‘This is the place.’ Provo was just an afterthought.” —Former Utah Coach Ron McBride
“This today will be inspiring. The hatred between BYU and Utah is nothing compared to what it will be. It will be a crusade to beat BYU from now on. This is a prediction: In the next two years Utah will drill BYU someday, but we won’t run up the score even if we could set an NCAA record against them.”—Utah Coach Wayne Howard following a 38-8 pasting in 1977
“Typical Utah #$%^! All those [Utes] think that’s all there
is to life. But when I’m making $50-60,000 a year, they’ll
be pumping my gas. They’re low-class losers.” —Lenny
Gomes, BYU nose guard following Utah’s 1993 last-minute
“As far as I’m concerned, we’re through with those flags [large flags carried by U cheerleaders]. All it does is get the fans mad. Let’s just leave them home. We won’t let them bring them again.” —BYU Athletic Director Val Hale, after a 1999 Utah win in Provo
When Utah and BYU play at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Nov. 20, the war will start again. Through the years, the game has become more than just two great educational institutions facing off. It’s Red versus Blue; Ron versus Lavell; 34-31; Swoop versus Cosmo; Angels versus Demons; “Utah Man” versus “Rise and Shout”; Marcroft versus James; Coke versus hot chocolate; even Junior Utes versus Cougar Cubs. I’m proud to say that my son, now age nine, is solidly in the Ute camp. As we drove home from a U event recently, I reinforced to him our hopes that he would go to college, preferably the U. He replied that he was planning to go to the U. I jokingly said, “Well, as long as you don’t go to BYU.” His reply brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat: “Dad, you know that if I went to BYU I could never come home.” As with generations before, the rivalry torch has been passed.
—John Fackler BS’89 BS’94 MprA’95 is director of business relations at the U’s Alumni Association.
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