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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah fans in the MUSS cheer as Utah hosts USC on Oct. 4, 2012 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.
Monson: Utes fighting over a fight song

University of Utah’s 1904 ‘Utah Man’ pits traditionalists against those who say a 21st century update is called for.

First Published Apr 24 2014 10:20 am • Last Updated Apr 24 2014 10:46 pm

Utah’s fight song, "Utah Man," has quite literally become a … fight song.

It’s a song that students, administrators, faculty, alumni and fans of the university are fighting over. If accusations and arguments were fists, we’d have a full-on brawl raging here. It’s like one of those old western cartoons in which Quick Draw McGraw or Deputy Dawg starts throwing hooks and haymakers and soon there’s a huge dust cloud moving around with boots and hats and bandanas and knuckles and noses and stars peeking out and then disappearing again.

At a glance

Utah fight song lyrics

I am a Utah man, sir and I live across the green.

Our gang it is the jolliest that you have ever seen.

Our coeds are the fairest and each one’s a shining star.

Our yell, you hear it ringing through the mountains near and far.


Who am I, sir, a Utah man am I:

A Utah man, sir, and will be till I die: Ki! Yi!

We’re up to snuff: we never bluff.

We’re game for any fuss.

No other gang of college men dare meet us in the muss.

So fill your lungs and sing it out shout it to the sky.

We’ll fight for dear old crimson for.....


And when we prom the avenue, all lined up in a row.

And arm in arm and step in time as down the street we go.

No matter if a freshman green, or in a senior’s gown,

The people all admit we are the warmest gang in town.


We may not live forever on this jolly good old sphere,

But while we do we’ll live a life of merriment and cheer.

And when our college days are o’er and night is drawing nigh,

With parting breath we’ll sing that song:

A Utah Man am I!

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Right now, nobody knows who’s winning and who’s losing the fight song fight. There’s only the dust cloud rolling toward Utah president David Pershing and his ultimate decision on the matter.

Student leaders have voted to change a few words — fighting words — of the song to make it more inclusive, and others react to that suggestion as though a horde of barbarians is attempting to alter the lyrics to the Battle Hymn of the Republic or America the Beautiful or Hotel California.

I’m not sure any school fight song is worth a fight. It’s just not that big a deal. Others, apparently, disagree. Vehemently disagree. Kick-you-in-the-teeth-and-laugh-at-your-pain disagree.

Let’s look at the words and examine what’s going on here:

"I am a Utah man, sir, and I live across the green.

Our gang, it is the jolliest that you have ever seen.

Our coeds are the fairest and each one’s a shining star.

Our yell, you’ll hear it ringing through the mountains near and far.

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Who am I, sir? A Utah man am I.

A Utah man, sir, and will be till I die. Ki-Yi.

We’re up to snuff, we never bluff.

We’re game for any fuss.

No other gang of college men dare meet us in the muss.

So fill your lungs and sing out, shout it to the sky.

We’ll fight for dear old crimson for … a … Utah … man … am … I."

Go Utes!

There’s another verse or two, talking about promming the avenue and living a life of merriment and cheer, but you get the idea already.

The trouble appears to center on the whole thing about fair coeds and a Utah man am I, as well as the gang of college men doing their battle.

The barbarians claim some students … say, women … feel less than included or represented in those verses. And you’ve got to admit, it kind of leaves half the student body on the outs and over on the side somewhere — not on the field of struggle where the men are — fulfilling their primary role to look fair and such.

There’s a definite delineation between male and female in the song. And it’s not a situation where the word "man" is a representation of "all humankind," as in Neil Armstrong saying, "That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

So some of the modern students at Utah want the song to include everyone, males and females, whether they are on the field or court or diamond competing or sitting in the stands cheering or in the library studying or in front of the mirror primping. It’s not an unreasonable sentiment.

Blowback, though, is coming from traditionalists who want the dad-blam song to remain the same, the way it always was. Problem with that is the song isn’t what it once was. Written more than 100 years ago, it was adapted from an old drinking song. The words, reflecting attitudes at that period of time — back when men were men and women were women — have already been changed.

The lyrics here aren’t exactly sacrosanct.

I like them, in a nostalgic sort of way. I like the tune, too, even though it’s a bit reminiscent of the M-i-c-k-e-y M-o-u-s-e song. It reminds me of my father, a proud Utah grad who loved academics and sports at the university. He was a deep thinker, a wise man, a scientist by profession and a huge sports fan who passed away 13 years ago, and I miss him.

But I figure it this way: Although he was passionate about Utah sports, he — and most of his generation — wouldn’t have been bothered for one second about anybody altering a few words to his school’s fight song. He would have cared a lot more about the Utes winning a few more Pac-12 games. He once told me, "Tradition has its place, but no one should be incarcerated by it." He also said, "Don’t fight over things that aren’t worth fighting over." And he said, "Money doesn’t grow on trees."

He was right on all three counts.

If the students want to alter a few words, quit fighting, then, and change the freaking fight song. Ki-Yi.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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