(Heard above in order: Bronco Mendenhall; Kyle Van Noy; Riley Nelson; Cody Hoffman)
It was 10:04am Wednesday morning at BYU Football Media Day. I was sitting in the studio audience (which consisted of mostly the media) in one of the pristine BYUtv studios watching a made for television show that featured an interview with Athletic Director Tom Holmoe. Holmoe was discussing the difficulty of scheduling games for the future of the program. I looked down at my computer and saw the email from the University of Utah that I essentially believe will put a nail in the coffin of the rivalry:
Utes to Host Michigan in 2015 Season Opener
Utah will play in Ann Arbor in 2014
SALT LAKE CITY—Utah will host Michigan in Rice-Eccles Stadium in the 2015 season opener as a part of a home-and-home series that begins with a 2014 game in Ann Arbor. Michigan will make its first Salt Lake City appearance on Sept. 3, 2015 in a rare weekday game for the Wolverines, who have never played on a Thursday. The first game of the series is scheduled for Sept. 20, 2014 in Michigan Stadium.
On one end the email going out while BYU was showcasing it’s program was well timed and funny. On the other hand it was classless (Former Cougar QB Max Hall would probably agree) and sad. So as Holmoe and BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall went on to talk about how they would like to see the rivalry continue pointing the finger directly at Utah as the ones that would end it the Utes were basically saying “ok by us.”
Reaction after the fact from BYU ranged from disappointment to basically calling the Utes out. Regarding Utah trying to put together a balanced schedule, Mendenhall told me, “To me you start with BYU-Utah game & then work from there. It’s not a game that is a second thought–it’s the game your schedule starts with in terms of importance”"
BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy took a different tone, “It’s disappointing. We’re a trap game. I think they’re nervous to play us because of the Pac-12 & that’s fine.”
Wide receiver Cody Hoffman maybe summed it up best. “It sucks.”
And as a member of the media that has covered this game and would rank this rivalry right up there with great ones like Michigan-Ohio State it really does suck.
I agree with Mendenhall that the schedule really should start with that game but then again if BYU was in the Pac-12 and Utah wasn’t I wonder how he would feel then. Now while Van Noy’s usage of the word “nervous” was off-base (listen to his comments in its entirety in the YouTube video above), where he was heading has merit. The Utes don’t want to play BYU because there is a chance they could lose. When you use the word “balanced” with “schedule” it really means they want guaranteed wins. That means blowout, easy, boring games just to prop up their overall record.
The ultimate loser of course are the fans of both schools. Part of the fun of the rivalry is the back and forth between the fan bases. And even the religious overtones, while at times obviously goes way too far, still adds the bite and hatred that has propelled this matchup into the upper tier of rivalries in all of college football.
And for those Utah fans that are already saying good riddance to their rival “Down South” don’t complain that you paid you’re hard earned money to see your team beat down those cream puffs. But then again you do have Michigan coming to town and clearly that doesn’t suck.