There’s no question that Brigham Young University and the University of Utah have a troubled relationship.
The U. is Utah’s flagship university, a state-sponsored school that bears the name of its sponsor. The Y is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ flagship school, in a state that hosts its world headquarters.
Both schools have approximately 32,000 students (BYU has the edge with 1,200 more students). The U costs $7,956 for in-state students, and $25,198 for out-of-state students. The Y, subsidized by church members, costs less at $5,460 for LDS students and $10,920 for non-LDS students.
The two schools have been rivals for more than 100 years as they jockey for supremacy in a moderately homogenous state. Their proximity ensures that they compete for students, athletic recruits, coaches and fans.
The annual football game between the two schools has been deemed the Holy War. The rivalry has been a good source of entertainment, and there’s nothing a little trash talk can’t improve.
The winner of the Holy War takes bragging rights for a year. As well as God’s approbation.
After Utah joined the Pac-12 in 2011, U fans claimed BYU was out of the U’s league. Indeed, BYU hasn’t won since 2009. But we can’t all be Pac-12 schools (with Pac-12 prices).
As former U. coach Ron McBride used to say, when Brigham Young came into the valley, he pointed at the University of Utah and said, “This is the right place.” Provo was just an afterthought.
Sports Illustrated once labeled BYU as the “most-hated team in college football” for being “clean, sober and insufferable.” Yes, those Honda mini-vans really are insufferable.
The U’s strong game is playing wide left. The Y is vulnerable unless it’s playing wide right. Y players go forth to serve, U players ask, “You want fries with that?”
Both schools have room to improve. Perhaps the Y should follow the U’s lead in hiring more women. Maybe the U should follow the Y’s lead in providing paid family leave.
But the Y can keep its religious honor code, and the U can keep its intolerant mascot.
In the end, though, we’re all Utahns. As Steve Tate, former University of Utah safety, learned in his friendship with BYU running backs coach Reno Mahe, forged through personal tragedy, “You realize how insignificant certain things are.” Like football games.
May the best team win, and the other team not throw garbage on referees.