I was in the midst of doing some in-depth research on another story for the BYU Cougars when I began to be reminded of the legacy that the rivalry between the Cougars and the Utah Utes had (I have to put it in past tense because the two schools won’t have the opportunity to face each other on the gridiron for the next two seasons), and why it makes no sense that it is coming to an end. Even if it’s just for two years.
Utah dominated the early part of the series with only two losses over the first 40 games, but since then it has been a very balanced affair. The Cougars dominated the 70’s and 80’s while the Utes have won the battle far more often as of late. But no matter who has won, the game has always been played. In fact, the Utes and Cougars have faced each other on the football field every year since 1922 (minus the three years BYU didn’t have a team during WWII).
I have heard all kinds of reasons why the game should not be played and all of them don’t hold any water to me. Some say that the games have become too heated and that it gets out of hand on both the field and in the stands. Frankly, the same can be said for any football game from little league to the NFL, but it doesn’t stop teams from facing their fiercest rivals on a yearly basis. We have to realize that football is a violent sport and it will get heated from time to time and that happens no matter what two teams are on the field.
Another excuse (that comes mostly from Utah fans) is that they don’t need to play each other anymore because the Utes have moved on to bigger and better schedules as a member of the Pac-12. That idea is just plain silly and something no true local fan would say. While it’s true that the Utes have moved to a bigger and better conference, there is still room to schedule the Cougars. They have three nonconference games to play every year which leaves plenty of room for the rivalry to take place.
Then you will hear Utah fans counter with the argument that BYU is just not good enough or important enough for the Utes to schedule. That is also a terrible reason and something that is false. All you have to do to prove that point is look at the opening game on the schedule for Utah just weeks away. Thats right, the vaunted Idaho State Bengals are coming to town for what is sure to be a massive blowout. Not exactly Notre Dame or Florida State now is it? If the Utes can schedule FCS schools than they can clearly face even the worst Cougar teams and get a better matchup.
The other side of that coin also gets brought into play by others who think the game isn’t a necessity. They say (including Utah athletic director Chris Hill) that BYU is just too high quality an opponent to have to face every year now that the Utes have to face the brutal Pac-12 schedule. That doesn’t fit either. The Utes have Fresno State and Michigan on the nonconference schedule this up coming season, and both can say that they are at least on par with the Cougars.
No matter the argument being made or whose side of the fence you are on, there is no good reason for this rivalry to take a break. The only thing it does is rob the fans of a great game where there is so much passion that it spills over into every day life. And, I for one, am disappointed that I wont get to see that passion manifested on the field this year. The smack talk that comes from such passion (and sometimes hatred) is great, but the games are even better. After all, they are battles where legends are made and a place where remarkable plays are burned into our souls until the day we die. Whether you are a Ute or a Cougar, plays like Beck to Hairline will never be forgotten and neither should this rivalry. It’s been going on too long, it’s too exciting and it’s far too meaningful for all involved to let it go away.