BYU Vs. Utah: the Rivalry that Was

Stephen CarrollContributor IJune 22, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - NOVEMBER 22:  A Utah Utes fan looks on during the game against the BYU Cougars at Rice-Eccles Stadium on November 22, 2008 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Conference Realignment is not a benign event, and has more far-reaching effects than the players involved can realize.  This will likely prove to be exceptionally true for the now evolving relationship between the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. 

The Rivalry.  The Holy War, as some call it, referencing the religious affiliation of BYU, and the varied emotions tied to that identity. 

Utah is now celebrating the entrance of their institution and athletic programs into the PAC-10. 

It is apparent from recent statements in the State of Utah's local media that most persons associated with the Utah program expect their rivlary with BYU to continue as usual.

As goes the oft used English proverb, "You can't have your cake and eat it too."

Utah's relationship with BYU is more complicated than most college rivalry contests seen across the country.  The bitterness involved in the fued has pushed some to wish that the two programs did not meet on the gridiron anymore. 

Many, however, are convinced that the rivalry will continue, and perhaps be more intense than ever.

It's hard for me to see things that way.

First off, the playing field has been altered.  Utah will now, beginning in 2011, begin to reap it's share of PAC-10 TV contract money, which will eventually mean that Utah will garner 10 times the amount of revenue each year from that source alone, compared with what BYU will expect to see. 

Given that a new contract is about to be negotiated, that figure could be distinctly higher.  The benefits that this will give the Utes in regards to their facilities and program cannot be underestimated.  A rivalry is poorly formed with this kind of imbalance. 

Second, Utah now has the ultimate trump card when it comes to competing for recruits, particularly in football, now that they can advertise inclusion in the BCS country club of conferences. 

If you are looking for why the news that Utah is headed to the Pac-10 is so disheartening to BYU, this is it. 

BYU has a very storied football program with decades of tradition and success under the legend of LaVell Edwards and now Bronco Mendenhall. 

However, BYU remains on the outside looking in.  Want a shot a national championship in football?  BYU, in the current hierarchy, is not eligible. 

Once this reality sinks into these two fanbases over the coming years, it will markedly dampen the fires that have, to date, fueled this rivalry. 

This situation is in no way similar to Florida/Florida St. or Virginia/Virginia Tech.  This is BCS versus non-BCS.  Even Colorado/Colorado State doesn't compare in that their relationship did not endure this abrupt transition.

Third, the very nature of the athletic contests will be altered by Utah's departure from the Mountain West Conference.  The basketball game will become just that; a single contest that will be relegated to the preseason. 

There will be no more meetings on both floors in one season, and certainly no third meeting in the conference basketball tournament. 

The Utah/BYU rivalry on the hardwood will begin to resemble the schools' contests with Utah St.  Mildly meaningful, but later in the season, mostly forgettable. 

The football contest will be likely assigned to September or October.  No conference title is on the line.  No late season ramifications will see their resolution in this game anymore. 

Utah will be cast in the role of being "supposed to win;" after all, they have all the BCS fixins and advantages.  A Utah victory will start to ring hollow even for the most die-hard Ute.

BYU certainly is in no position to criticize Utah's choice to join the PAC-10, and is quick to acknowledge that they are looking for the same sort of opportunity. 

In fact, in unison, the BYU faithful are counting on AD Tom Holmoe and the Cougar administration to be in contact with the Big 12 trying to find an acceptable financial path for BYU to someday find inclusion in the Longhorn League. 

BYU doesn't fault Utah; it despises the new unequal footing between the two programs.

Should BYU find an eventual invitation to the Big 12 or should the MWC get AQ status, then the BYU fans will then find peace concerning the issue.  Nevertheless, the rivalry will never be the same even if that comes to frution.