In the modern era, the rivalry between BYU and the University of Utah is bigger than ever. It’s a fight not just between football teams, but between schools, cities, and ideas. When two rivals meet, there will be blood, sweat, and tears. No doubt it’s a battle, but is it a holy war?
Daily Herald Sportswriter Jason Franchuk says, “I’m not crazy about the term holy war, but I understand why it’s there because there is a battle with religion here. You can’t avoid the religious factor in this rivalry.”
Many BYU students think you can avoid the religious factor, and you should.
“I think the phrase ‘holy war’ is a bit much,” says BYU Senior, Lisa Isaacson, “I think it actually takes away from the competition. It adds another element of religion into the rivalry that I don’t think should ultimately be involved in this competition.”
Others think holy war simply has nothing to do with football.
“Holy war honestly makes me think of the crusades more than BYU rivalry week,” BYU Junior Emily Christensen states.
Then there’s also students who think the term is just in bad taste.
“It’s ghetto,” Nicole Curtis, a BYU Junior, says, “I don’t think it should be about religion. It’s about sports and competition, and I don’t think they have to make it personal and put people into groups that way.”
The rivalry between the Cougars and the Utes isn’t a new one. They don’t even agree about when it started. Four games were played between the schools in the 1800s while BYU was still a high school, Brigham Young Academy. The University of Utah counts these games, while BYU does not.
The two schools have played each other nearly every year since 1922, the only exception being 3 years during World War II when football was disbanded in the state of Utah. As the next 5 years approach, both teams are taking a different war path.
In 2013 the BYU and Utah football teams will battle in Provo. They’ll then take a two year break and meet again in Salt Lake City. But after 2016 the future is uncertain.
BYU Associate Athletic Director Duff Tittle says, “We’ll continue to play in other sports, but its that two year break in football that’s different. We’ll see if the rivalry comes back, if it’s as strong. I think it will. I hope it does.”
The 2014-2015 cease-fire may also prove a time of cleansing for the gridiron troops. Some fans certainly hope so. Rudy Isaacson, a graduate of the University of Utah and parent of BYU alumni, is one of them.
“I think not playing each other is different but probably a positive thing where we don’t have this negative atmosphere where people become somebody else. Over the years, we’ve created a monster. Sunday morning in most churches we’re talking about football, not gospel.”
Positive or negative, holy or not quite so holy, one fact still stands the test of time: All’s fair in love and war…and rivalry football.