The big question ever since the football programs for the University of Utah and Brigham Young University parted ways as conference foes in the summer of 2011, (The Utes to the Pac-12, and the Cougars to Independence), has been if their highly anticipated and heated rivalry in football would continue beyond 2012.
As the Utes have a difficult nine game conference schedule, having an emotional and exceptionally physical rivalry game with BYU early in the season is arguably not a good idea and/or unnecessary. Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham hinted to Yahoo! Sports that ending the rivalry is definitely possible:
“Bottom line is we’ve got to do what’s best for our program,” Whittingham said. “That supersedes anything to do with the rivalry. If taking a year or two off periodically is best for our program, best for our scheduling, then that’s what we’ve got to do.
“Our program is bigger than the rivalry. That’s got to take a backseat to us doing what’s best for our program.”
BYU just concluded their football media day yesterday with much talk of the rivalry. This upcoming game in September has been talked about as potentially the final match-up, for now, between the two schools. Both Athletic Director Tom Holmoe and Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall expressed that they would love to continue to face the Utes yearly (as reported by KSL):
Holmoe: “I love the rivalry. There’s nothing like it as a player, going into that game and playing. We’ll keep playing that game. Utah has made some overtures that they there may be reasons why they might want to drop it. If they do, that’s their choosing, but we do not want to drop it, and we want to keep going forward.”
Mendenhall: We’d like to keep playing (the Utah game), every year. I think the game itself has such fantastic tradition. It’s one of the best rivalries in the world, in any sport, and to think that it might go away doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
While BYU was hosting the media to preview their upcoming football season, the Utes football team had some news of their own. A scheduled home and home series with the University of Michigan was announced. Ute fans are excited for the Wolverines, whom they beat decisvely to open their remarkable and memorable 2008 perfect season, to come to Rice Eccles Stadium in 2015.
The Pac-12 schedule includes nine conference games, and three non-conference games. That is one potential hold up on the Utes side on scheduling the Cougars for the future. Also, if possible, every Pac-12 squad would ideally like to have seven home games with five on the road. Right now, the Holy War match-up for this September 15th is potentially the last … for now.
But is it though? Lets look at some things that we do know. Lets check out the 2013 schedule for the Utes. Scheduling BYU for the game in Provo would give Utah five road games. With their scheduled five conference games and the Aggies of Utah State coming to Rice Eccles, there’s still room for another home game to match the 7-Home/5-Away format. There is an ideal, Pac-12 schedule for the Utes.
Now look at the Utes 2014 schedule. With the Michigan match-up, that gives the Utes six road games for that season already as they travel to play Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon State, UCLA and Washington. So without counting BYU, the 7-Home/5-Away format is already out of the question. Michigan thus far is the only non conference game. That wouldn’t interrupt the pattern of the Holy War, as that would be a year for the game to be played in Rice Eccles Stadium. Add a lower or mid tier FBS school, or an FCS school at home for the Utes, and that’s actually a very ideal non-conference schedule.
If we look at 2013 for the Cougars, as well as 2014, it’s clear they won’t have any difficulties with vacancy or flexibility to make room for the Pac-12′s rule about not having out of conference games after September.
Though nothing was specific, just today, Bill Riley, the radio voice of the Utes tweeted that Holmoe and Utah Athletic Director Chris Hill had discussions.
Folks, looking at what we do know, it’s very likely that the Holy War between the Utes and the Cougars is going to live on for at least another two years beyond 2012. I expect a scheduling announcement to happen soon. The rivalry will continue, and that is great news.