Before the Holy War even began, both BYU and University of Utah’s Army ROTC joined forces to transport the game ball to Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Beginning at 6 a.m. at LaVell Edwards Stadium, 24 ROTC cadets took turns carrying the ball the 23.6 miles to the designated hand-off spot.
The “game-ball run” takes place each year on the morning of the BYU-Utah game. The ball is run from the “away” stadium to the “home” stadium. Cadet Jeff Anderson said meeting in the middle is a way to show the respect that each ROTC group has for each other.
“We’ll switch the ball with University of Utah cadets who are wearing the same uniform that we’re wearing,” Anderson said. “I really like that because it shows the unity, even though they are cadets from a different university, and even though we have (a) rivalry, we’re able to join together in this run.”
No cadet spoke negatively about another. There was no mention of fraternization with the “enemy.” In fact, the cadets saw this run as a positive thing for each university to take part in.
“It’s always cool to be involved with something athletic rather than watching other people be athletic,” Cadet Captain Travis Meservy said. “It’s a great excuse to go run 20 miles or more, and even with the rivalry with Utah, they’re good guys too.”
Most cadets were required to run between eight and ten miles. Two large vans followed alongside, picking up cadets that needed rest, as well as provided food and drink along the way.
Throughout the entire run, the cadets kept a high morale, encouraging one another to keep pushing. Those who needed help ran at the front of the pack to lead the others at their pace.
At one point, a dog was startled behind a fence and began barking wildly at the passing cadets. One leading cadet yelled, “Hey, quit your barking!” The response from another cadet was, “I’m just practicing to be a good officer, sir!”
As the BYU cadets approached the final stretch, those who were resting in the vans joined the rest of the running group. Two single-file lines were formed for the last mile of the run, and as they approached the hand-off spot, the Utah cadets quickly and orderly formed two ranks themselves.
In militaristic manner, BYU lined up in front of Utah’s cadets to respectfully make the hand-off.
“No more of this ‘left, right, left, right’ stuff,” said Kurtis Crawford, leader of the University of Utah Army ROTC. “Let’s have some fun with it. Remember, you’re both from rival schools, but you’ll both be serving in the same army.”
The hand-off took place as one cadet passed the ball to the receiving team. BYU then stood ‘at ease’ as Utah cadets began the second leg of the run to Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Major Lance Mendenhall, a civilian assigned to BYU for one year, said that because of the intensity of the rivalry between BYU and Utah, more people should know about this friendly game-ball run. It shows that even though not everybody can participate in the game, people can show support in other ways.
One cadet, Giselle Orantes of Texas, said that she has no hard feelings toward Utah and was glad to be able to be a part of something so fun.
“Running with the guys, holding the football, it’s fun,” Orantes said. “No hard feelings against Utah. I just think blue is a better color.”