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Utah, BYU football rivalry revived for 2017, 2018

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (92) sacks Brigham Young quarterback Riley Nelson on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012.

By Lya Wodraska

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jul 09 2013 12:59PM
Updated Dec 7, 2013 11:35PM

So maybe the Utah-BYU football rivalry will live on after all.

After much fretting and debating that the rivalry — scheduled to go on hiatus in 2014-15 — might wither away, Utah athletic director Chris Hill announced Tuesday that the archrivals will play in 2017 and 2018, pending approval from the Pac-12.

Hill, who made the initial announcement via a YouTube video, said the teams will play early in September in 2017 and in the last game of the year in 2018. He expects the Pac-12 to approve the schedule in August.

"This is something we have planned on doing and that is what we are going to do," said Hill. "We haven’t signed a contract yet, but we are there in my mind. We just have to get it signed, approved and we are good."

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe hinted last month that the schools were close to a series extension.

"I feel very confident that we will play games again against Utah [after the two-year hiatus]," he said at BYU’s June 26 media day. "This relationship with Utah, behind the scenes, is really good. Sometimes the fans will wrestle in the streets, but for us, we are very diligent in making this happen. And in the near future, the very near future, we will have a game [scheduled]. After the hiatus, we will have games in place."

The Utes and Cougars have met annually since 1922, expect for 1943-45 when BYU didn’t field a team due to World War II.

It was announced last July the teams wouldn’t play in 2014 and 2015 after Utah agreed to a home-and-home series with Michigan, adding fuel to the speculation that the Utah-BYU series could become a victim of Utah’s Pac-12 move.

Hill said at the time that he didn’t want to burden the Utes with a nonconference schedule that was too difficult. Even as recently as last year he was noncommittal about the future of the series.

However, Hill said on Tuesday he recognizes how important the rivalry is to fans, athletes and media members and took a firm stance that the rivalry should continue.

"The reality is we have always intended to play," he said. "The exception was for a couple of years, but we understand how important it is. It is a powerful rivalry."

The rivalry is set for Sept. 21 in Provo, then will take a two-year hiatus and play Sept. 10, 2016, in Salt Lake City.

College football will implement a playoff selection committee starting in 2014 that is expected to use strength of schedule as a determining factor to seed the top four teams for a playoff.

Hill said the likelihood of an increasing need for a strong strength of schedule didn’t sway his decision to schedule the Cougars.

"The only thing that factored into this was a long-standing desire to keep playing BYU," he said. "That is why we are playing it and we planned to play it all along. We are excited."

Reporter Jay Drew contributed to this story.

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