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New 'rivals' don't look much like the old ones for Utes
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Boulder, Colo. • Except for the national championship emblem painted on the stadium facade, the Colorado Buffaloes don't have all that much in common with the Brigham Young University Cougars. They represent a public university in an exceptionally progressive town, have a new football coach trying to reverse years of losing and possess one of the coolest live mascots in college sports, not just another guy in a fuzzy costume.

Yet here they are, bumping the Cougars from the traditional rivalry spot on the University of Utah's schedule.

It's one of the oddities of the Utes making their historic move into the Pac-12 Conference next month.

To accommodate their new league schedule, the Utes have had to relocate their annual football game with the hated Cougars since the Pac-12 needs them to play the Buffaloes on the final weekend of the regular season. That's when the rest of the teams in the league will be contesting their own traditional rivalries, such as the "Big Game" between Cal and Stanford.

But the Utes and Buffaloes haven't played each other in football since 1962 — the Buffs traditionally have played Nebraska in their final regular-season game — assuring that if anything is going to breed contempt between the two on the last Saturday in November during the next few years, it's probably not going to be familiarity.

"Rivalries take time," Colorado receiver Kyle Cephalo said. "You never know. It takes a lot, a lot of years to establish a solid rivalry, and this year, to be honest with you, everyone's our rival. That's our mentality. Us and, obviously, Utah — we're the new kids on the block and everyone in the Pac-12 is going to try to show us this is Pac-12 football, and we're going to try to show that, hey, we're up to the task. We're ready for anything you put on the table for us."

Most analysts expect the Buffaloes to rank among the weakest football teams in the expanded Pac-12 after five straight losing seasons under former coach Dan Hawkins.

But the Buffs fired Hawkins after last season, hiring alumnus and former assistant coach Jon Embree from the NFL's Washington Redskins in the hope that he not only can rebuild the program on the field but also re-establish a connection to the fans and alumni who have lost contact since the glory days that included the 1990 national championship.

It's that last part that makes the move from the Big 12 Conference to the Pac-12 particularly important for the Buffaloes.

While the Utes view their move into the Pac-12 as a opportunity to take a major step up to the big time, the Buffs had already been members of an elite league with automatic access to the Bowl Championship Series.

For them, the move is equally about demographics.

Athletic director Mike Bohn said most of the school's alumni live west of Boulder, Colo., so they were seldom able to see the Buffaloes play when the team was in the Big 12 Conference.

Now the Buffs will enjoy regular exposure to 23,000 alumni in California alone, which is important to a school that Bohn said depends more on out-of-state students and the tuition they pay than any other. The promise and excitement were evident when the Buffs played at Cal last season and 9,000 fans showed up wearing black and gold.

"No disrespect to our Big 12 partners, but we never had 9,000 to a game in the Big 12 Conference, even in championship games, in 15 years," Bohn said. "Not even half that."

The Buffs had 15,655 fans attend their annual spring football game, when quarterback Tyler Hansen showed off the team's new pro-style offense at Folsom Field. That was the second-largest spring crowd in school history.

"It represents the optimism associated with coach Embree," Bohn said.

In his effort to embrace the program's history, Embree also hired several former Colorado players and coaches as staff members — former Utah defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo is there, too — and he has experience in the Pac-12, having also coached at UCLA, where his son is a wide receiver.

That's why Embree believes the Utes can develop a healthy rivalry with the Buffs, even while retaining one with the Cougars.

"That's the one thing about this conference — a lot of schools have two rivals," he said. "But I understand they want to try to make it happen. I believe, when you come in somewhere new, usually something happens that creates a rivalry, you know? It may be Utah. But for Utah, it may be Oregon State. Something may happen where bad blood develops, and that's how it goes."

"That's today's culture," he added. "Everyone wants it to happen now, now, now. But the rivalries will develop."

The Utes and Buffs actually did have a pretty good rivalry, years ago.

They played 57 times between 1903 and 1962, perhaps most notably when future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron "Whizzer" White — the most famous Colorado football player in history — shredded the Utes in back-to-back Buffalo victories in 1936 and 1937. The teams were members of the same conference from 1910 to 1947, before the Buffaloes joined the Big 8 Conference, which eventually became the Big 12.

The Buffs led the series, 30-24-3, but the Utes won the last two meetings after a nine-game winless streak through the 1950s — when their biggest rival was Utah State and BYU had yet to develop into a power under LaVell Edwards.

"Rivalries develop over time," said Utah athletic director Chris Hill. "But maybe we can speed it up."

Hill and Bohn said they have discussed strategies for doing that, including introducing a trophy for the winner and encouraging fans to travel back and forth for games.

Certainly, geography can play a helpful role, with only 525 miles separating the schools.

That's a few more, obviously, than the 45 miles that separate the Utes from the Cougars. But the proximity has helped fuel strong rivalries between the NBA's Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets, as well as Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids in Major League Soccer.

And even though the Buffs aren't the Cougars, Colorado offensive lineman Ryan Miller said it might not take much for them to rile the Utes just the same.

"A rivalry can happen any play," Miller said. "It can happen as quick as someone says something to the media, a play, a look. A bad call. It can happen. There are no limits about how a rivalry can form." The renewalof a rivalry?

The Utes and Buffaloes will play their inaugural Pac-12 Conference regular-season finale Nov. 25 — the Friday night after Thanksgiving. The game will be played at Rice-Eccles Stadium, though the time has yet to be determined. The teams will play every year, alternating locations. The past decade

The Utah Utes and Colorado Buffaloes have endured different football fortunes since 2000:

Utah Year Colorado

4-7 (3-4 MWC) 2000 3-8 (3-5 Big 12)

8-4 (4-3 MWC) 2001 10-3 (7-1 Big 12)

5-6 (3-4 MWC) 2002 9-5 (7-1 Big 12)

10-2 (6-1 MWC) 2003 5-7 (3-5 Big 12)

12-0 (7-0 MWC) 2004 8-5 (4-4 Big 12)

7-5 (4-4 MWC) 2005 7-5 (5-3 Big 12)

8-5 (5-3 MWC) 2006 2-10 (2-6 Big 12)

9-4 (5-3 MWC) 2007 6-7 (4-4 Big 12)

13-0 (8-0 MWC) 2008 5-7 (2-6 Big 12)

10-3 (6-2 MWC) 2009 3-9 (2-6 Big 12)

10-3 (7-1 MWC) 2010 5-7 (2-6 Big 12)

96-39 (58-25 MWC) TOTAL 63-73 (41-47 Big 12) Wynn was a whiskerfrom being a Buff

Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn nearly played for Colorado instead of the Utes.

The junior originally committed to play for the Buffaloes, but he changed his mind because of the stockpile of quarterbacks that former coach Dan Hawkins had assembled — including Hawkins' son, Cody. One of them was Tyler Hansen, who was Wynn's host during his recruiting visit and has grown into the starter for the Buffaloes.

"It will be a good rivalry," Wynn said. "We're both making a transition, but they are coming from the Big 12 — a BCS conference. So they might have a little bit of an advantage. But it should be a lot of fun."

Wynn said he doesn't expect a lot of hype surrounding his past with the Buffs because the staff that recruited him has been replaced. Actually, both he and Hansen are operating under new regimes, with Hansen playing for new head coach Jon Embree and Wynn heading into his first season under new offensive coordinator Norm Chow. The past decade

The Utah Utes and Colorado Buffaloes have endured different football fortunes since 2000:

Utah Year Colorado

4-7 (3-4 MWC) 2000 3-8 (3-5 Big 12)

8-4 (4-3 MWC) 2001 10-3 (7-1 Big 12)

5-6 (3-4 MWC) 2002 9-5 (7-1 Big 12)

10-2 (6-1 MWC) 2003 5-7 (3-5 Big 12)

12-0 (7-0 MWC) 2004 8-5 (4-4 Big 12)

7-5 (4-4 MWC) 2005 7-5 (5-3 Big 12)

8-5 (5-3 MWC) 2006 2-10 (2-6 Big 12)

9-4 (5-3 MWC) 2007 6-7 (4-4 Big 12)

13-0 (8-0 MWC) 2008 5-7 (2-6 Big 12)

10-3 (6-2 MWC) 2009 3-9 (2-6 Big 12)

10-3 (7-1 MWC) 2010 5-7 (2-6 Big 12)

96-39 (58-25 MWC) TOTAL 63-73 (41-47 Big 12)

Foam wasn't built in a day: Utes, Buffs need time to work up the froth of dislike.
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