Score one for Chris Hill.
He’s exactly right.
He’s smarter than the majority of his fan base, upon whose backs Ute football was built, a vast majority of whom want the Utah-BYU game to be played every year, without exception.
But, no, the rivalry game doesn’t need to be played. It has already been played for, like, a hundred years. It’s played out. It’s unnecessary. It’s optional. Like a heater in your Toyota that keeps the steering wheel warm in the winter. Like ordering up a tin of Almas caviar or Dansuke watermelon at a top-flight restaurant, you can simply pass on it and move straight to the main course.
It’s old and tired.
And even worse, as all those years have gone by, it’s gotten so emotional. Too many people in the state of Utah care about the rivalry game. It doesn’t matter if they wouldn’t know a spiral from a spitball, they stop what they’re doing and dial in on this one game, this one week, every year, to see the red and the blue on the field together, same as it ever was.
Who wants that?
Who wants a game that’s a great divider, but also a great unifier? Nearly everyone picks a side to root for. There is no other event, in sports or outside of it, that has that kind of grip on the broader base of people here.
So, he’s completely justified in jettisoning the game in 2014 and 2015, because the Utes have scheduled Michigan, alongside the rest of a Pac-12 schedule that is so, so hard.
So, so hard.
Add the Cougars to that mix, and it’s just too much.
Too, too much.
As Hill said on Tuesday: “I can’t expect us to play 11 really, really difficult games in a season.”
Nope, you have to mix in a Paducah State, instead, and sacrifice a historic rival to find what has become the notion of the day in college football — balance. You have to find a couple of teams you can destroy without really trying, even if none of your fans wants to actually watch those games. Will the playoff selection committee be noting the strength of nonconference opponents? Uh, we’ll get back to you on that.
As Hill explained, the easier path is for the good of the kids: “The reality is, we have an unusual opportunity and we had to do what was best for the student-athletes.”
What athletics administrator in his right mind, after all, wants his team playing a quality opponent every week? That’s kooky talk.
Furthermore, Hill made it perfectly clear that interrupting the rivalry for the first time since World War II meant no real permanent damage to it: “Our intent is to continue to schedule BYU, unless unusual circumstances dictate otherwise.”
Like the Utes don’t feel like it.
And then came the unreasonable response from BYU AD Tom Holmoe, who had the nerve to lay it on so thick by sending out a series of tweets:
“As a former coach and player, I love the BYU-Utah rivalry. … It’s one of the great rivalries in all of sports. There is so much history and tradition in the game. … I understand that Utah has some challenges with scheduling, but as I have indicated on several occasions, it is our preference to play the game every year. … In the future, I know we can find a way to make that happen.”
He doesn’t get it. Utah has bigger fish to fry now.
A small minority of Ute fans believe they don’t need a rival anymore, especially not that backwater bunch down in Provo, even though Hill clearly pointed out that keeping BYU in 2014 and 2015 is “over-scheduling.”
Most of those people who think the world is Utah’s rival now, and that what has been built over the better part of a century should suddenly be tossed to the curb, are extremely intelligent fans, fans who are mature and have a lot of life experience and also a broad perspective on the matter.
They should be listened to.
Yeah, Chris Hill got this one right.
Two notably successful major college football programs located just 50 miles apart that have been playing each other for longer than any of us has been alive and that draw the passions of everyone in the state and that unify and divide families and households and friends and captivate us all have no need to go on playing every year.
It’s too inconvenient, too hard.
So, so hard.
Bring on Paducah State.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.