BYU vs Utah: A priceless rivalry with an uncertain future

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“The Holy War” between BYU and Utah was ranked the No. 7 best rivalry in college football according to Yahoo Sports this past summer, but the rivalry is sitting on an uncertain future.

September 15 most likely will be the final time current students of the universities will see these teams face off in Salt Lake City.  The teams will play in Provo in 2013, not play during the 2014 and 2015 seasons,play in 2016, and they do not have a game scheduled beyond that.

BYU and Utah have played one another in football every year since 1922, except for 1943-45 when BYU did not participate in football during World War II.

With a long and consistent history, what does this rivalry mean to those with connections to these schools?

[media-credit name= “Courtesy Brady Peterson” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]
Brady Peterson celebrates with winning quarterback, Max Hall (15), on his shoulders in Nov. 2007.
“It means as much as the whole season can mean all by itself,” Brady Peterson said, a 2009 BYU alum and long-time BYU fan.

On Nov. 24, 2007 in Provo, Peterson attended the rivalry game which many fans will still remember today. BYU (8-2, 5-0 conference) trailed Utah 10-9 (8-3, 5-2 conference) with just over a minute remaining. BYU was pinned deep in their own territory on the 12 yard line and faced fourth-and-18.  BYU would clinch the outright Mountain West championship with a win, and Utah was fighting for a shot at a share of the title.

BYU quarterback Max Hall under pressure squirmed out of the pocket, and as he rolled to his right, he threw on the run to wide receiver Austin Collie for a 49 yard completion to keep the drive alive. Running back Harvey Unga would plunge into the end zone four plays later with 38 seconds remaining for the go-ahead score.

As the clock was ticking away at Utah’s last drive, a stadium security personnel informed Peterson, “It was a $1,000 fine if fans entered the playing field after the game ended.”

Utah’s final drive fell short at the BYU 43 yard line, and the clock expired to queue the celebration as BYU earned the 17-10 victory.

“As I ran out, I figured that $1,000 was worth it if I got caught,” Peterson said. “Luckily, she tried to grab me and I broke the tackle.”

What is this rivalry worth to students? Apparently more than $1,000 to a starving college student.

Peterson, along with thousands of others, stormed the field to celebrate.

“I rushed the field because of the storied history between the two programs and my loyalty to the Cougs,” Peterson said. “I couldn’t not feel extreme joy at winning the rivalry game.”

Peterson would find quarterback Hall and hoist him up on his shoulders during the celebration.

The rivalry year-in and year-out has this sort of significance for many other BYU students.

“I can’t imagine a college experience without the BYU-Utah rivalry,” Trammell Cox, a senior studying psychology said. “This rivalry plays a large part in the identity of BYU, even. It doesn’t matter what the records are of the two schools when they play, it’s always a big game that fans are anxious to see.”

Utah joining the Pac-12 has caused scheduling conflicts, however. Issues in scheduling their out-of-conference games has left the rivalry game out of the picture for the first time since World War II.

Will this be the end of an annual tradition dating back to 1922?

“Before the [Utah] Jazz came in 1979, before the Utah Grizzlies existed and the U.S. had a soccer league for Real Salt Lake, Utahns waited every year for Utah and BYU to square off,” said Mitchell Breinholt, a Utah fan who is at BYU-I studying economics. “If they get rid of the Holy War, what will U of U and BYU students have to talk about? You can’t get rid of it, it is the heart of Utah sports.”

Peterson said he never thought he’d see the day the rivalry was put on hold and its continuation questioned.

“My grandfather’s cousin, Herman Longhurst, scored the winning touchdown the first time BYU ever beat Utah,” Peterson said. “He is rolling over in his grave I am sure at the thought of [the series] being put on hold.”

Only time will tell if there will be another showdown between the heated rivals come 2017.

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