Conference realignment killing college rivalries


Utah Ute fan Scott Lambert never misses the game against BYU.

“That game means everything. It’s the game I look forward to most every season,” Lambert said. “I can’t remember ever missing that game besides when I was on my mission.”

Every year Utah and BYU take part in a rivalry referred to by some as “The Holy War,” pitting the state’s top two programs against each other in a heated battle. But how much longer the rivalry will continue is undecided.

The two schools had been in the same athletic conference since the inception of the rivalry, making the game a yearly event. With the recent conference changes of BYU to football independence and Utah to the Pac-12, scheduling games against each other is difficult. BYU and Utah are slated to play in 2012, but no meetings have been scheduled for 2013 and on.

Many BYU and Utah fans feel the potential scheduling conflicts will cause the rivalry to diminish.

“I hate losing to Utah and I love beating Utah,” said BYU fan Neal Rappleye, of Orem. “The catch by Andrew George to beat Utah two years ago may have been the best thing that ever happened to me. I don’t know what it would be like to not have moments like that anymore.”

But BYU and Utah fans aren’t the only ones facing this potential problem. Conference realignment is taking place throughout the country and tearing rivalries apart left and right.

West Virginia versus Pittsburgh is one of the country’s oldest rivalries. Nicknamed “The Backyard Brawl,” the schools have faced off since 1895, playing each other 103 times. As members of the Big East in 2007, Pittsburgh ended West Virginia’s dreams of a national championship by defeating the No. 2 Mountaineers 13-9 in the season’s last regular season game. Starting in 2012, West Virginia plans to leave the Big East for the Big 12, while Pittsburgh will be a member of the ACC.

“West Virginia and Pitt is one of the best days of the year,” said Erica Marks, of Morgantown, W.Va. “I hope they can keep playing, I don’t really see us having a real rival in the Big 12. Maybe Oklahoma? No, probably not.”

The Texas versus Texas A&M rivalry began in 1894. At the beginning of next season, Texas A&M will be a member of the SEC, leaving Texas behind in the Big 12. The teams will face off for the 118th time at the end of the month. But who knows when the 119th game will take place?

“That’s going to be weird,” Texas student Bram Martinez said. “Every year we play Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. But now there won’t be any Texas A&M.”

As conference realignment continues, other teams may soon find themselves in the same position.

The teams who are already faced with losing rivals now look to find new ones. BYU is scheduled to play Boise State in 12 games through 2023 and is scheduled to play Notre Dame six times through 2020.

Fans, however, aren’t sure it will be that easy.

“I guess we could try to have a rivalry with Boise State since we’re scheduled to play them for the next 12 years, but I don’t think it will be the same as Utah,” Rappleye said.

As long as he can remember, Lambert has watched the BYU versus Utah game near the end of college football’s season, a time known throughout the country as “rivalry week.” This year Utah faces off against Colorado in the season’s final weekend, making Colorado Utah’s new Pac-12 “rival.”

“The rivalry with BYU is something that has been built for such a long time,” Lambert said. “People say, ‘You can be rivals with Colorado,’ but it doesn’t really work like that. That game really means nothing to me. It’ll be just like any other game.”

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