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BYU vs. Utah: South Jordan is rivalry's hotbed

Published September 14, 2012 12:22 pm

South Jordan, in southwest Salt Lake County, is the epicenter of the rivalry between the Utah Utes and the BYU Cougars.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

South Jordan • Choosing his clothing for South Jordan's Fourth of July patriotic breakfast, City Councilman Mark Seethaler alternates each year between red and blue.

This summer, his selection of a red University of Utah shirt was greeted with derision from a Brigham Young University fan, who said, "That shirt offends me."

Retelling the story, Seethaler said, "I laughed. He didn't."

Welcome to the epicenter of the rivalry, the one town in Utah that appears evenly divided between the schools that will stage their traditional football meeting Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. That's judging by displays of loyalties, the players involved in a church football competition and an office that annually stages the state's most elaborate rivalry pranks.

"Walking down the hall Friday, I'm sure I'll see 20 Utah shirts to 20 BYU shirts," said Austin Weeks, sports editor of Bingham High School's newspaper, The Prospector.

Similar stories are told about neighborhoods and even households in South Jordan, a town of about 55,000 residents in the southwestern corner of Salt Lake County — 19 miles from the Utah campus and 31 miles from BYU.

The loyalty split "really is … half-half," said former Bingham player Star Lotulelei, Utah's outstanding defensive lineman. He should know, originally having signed with BYU.

Numbers back up the anecdotal evidence. Nine ex-Bingham Miners will compete Saturday, five for BYU and four for Utah. In South Jordan's 84095 ZIP code, Utah lists 280 season-ticket accounts to BYU's 235 (each representing multiple seats).

South Jordan's divide makes it clear that the rivalry's boundaries are not easily defined. Point of the Mountain is not a true line of demarcation because the Utes have 15 season-ticket accounts in Orem. Membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns BYU, is not always a defining characteristic, either. Otherwise, the Glenmoor 4th Ward could not conduct its annual flag football game during rivalry week, pitting Utah devotees vs. BYU fans.

They take the rivalry seriously in South Jordan, where the residents are "the nicest people," Seethaler said, "but you wouldn't always appreciate that for the instant intolerance" of fans in opposing colors.

Asked to confirm the town's split, Allison Peterson nodded. "It's divided in my very own house," she said. "My boys, unfortunately, have gone with their dad."

She likes BYU; husband Tyler favors Utah. The Petersons have Ute season tickets, but when Utah faces Pac-12 teams, "I don't cheer," Allison said. "I just sit there."

On Saturday morning, she was photographing her sons Tate and Davis, among the hundreds of aspiring Bingham Miners playing for youth football teams. Five fields were in use at South Jordan City Park, where former Ute running back Eddie Lewis was watching his son, Raymond.

"You do get both teams' fans right here," Lewis said. "It's all fun. Everybody loves to talk football. This is where I see a lot of my 'Y' friends."

Bingham's football community may bring fans of each school together, but the antics at the Lendio headquarters in South Jordan definitely pit them against one another. The series of pranks began in 2009, when the office of company CEO Brock Blake was painted red.

He responded the next year by turning a Ute fan's Jaguar into a BYU shrine. Last September, when a strip of grass in the office was designed like BYU's field, Ute fans unleashed several goats on it.

This week, emboldened by last September's 54-10 victory, the Ute fans maintained their intensity. A 25-foot, inflatable Utah player appeared in the parking lot, preceding visits by the Ute mascot and a couple of cheerleaders. The company's Cougar fans undoubtedly will respond.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com A little red, a little blue

Former Bingham High School players on the rosters for the rivalry game:

BYU • Austin Holt, tight end; Remington Peck, defensive lineman; Manoa Pikula, linebacker; Iona Pritchard, running back; Justin Sorensen, kicker.

Utah • Tame Fangupo, defensive lineman; Vilisemi Fauonuko, defensive lineman; LT Filiaga, linebacker; Star Lotulelei, defensive lineman.