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Dick Harmon: Former Cougar/Ute dreams of returning respect to rivalry

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 23 2010 1:12 a.m. MST

Utah fans Derek Jensen, right, and Travis Card celebrate the win against Air Force.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

He may be the only living man to have played football at both Utah and BYU.

And that gives him the right and credibility to make this call.

Provo's Ray Beckham wants civility and respect returned to the rivalry. He cringes over the depth of hatred that has pooled in both fan bases. He recoils over the rant by Max Hall a year ago. He is disheartened when he reviews actions of fans in the stands on both sides, hears of physical altercations, and sees emotional midgets losing control.

He is pained by the depth of insults hurled by the vocal minority on both sides who have hijacked the BYU-Utah rivalry game.

Beckham's dismay is for both sides. He is not blaming one over the other. He just wants it cleaned up and reasonable. At age 83, he's seen acts of incivility reach new depths and it sickens him.

Beckham has a dream, albeit its chances of working are like a feather in a hurricane. He is a believer that goodness trumps bad. Pollyanna? Absolutely.

Beckham, whose background is in advertising, has an idea to help set things in the right direction. It's not a fix, but an event that he believes could start a movement. It may not turn the tide of hatred but it might help make fans stop and think and act with more intelligence and grace.

Beckham proposes an annual dinner at Thanksgiving Point. It could be held in August or rivalry week. Invited guests would be both teams, coaches, staff members, administrations, city leaders, Crimson and Cougar club leadership, presidents of both alumni associations, student body officers and the media.

He'd like to invite religious leaders and interfaith councils, a few former All-American players from both sides, the publishers of The Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News and Daily Herald, congressional leaders, the Utah Board of Regents, commissioner of education and the wives or companions of all.

The master of ceremonies would be Gov. Gary Herbert and there would be brief talks by France Davis, Steve Young and Eric Weddle, or another appropriate set. He'd bring in a major speaker, perhaps even LDS President Thomas S. Monson or maybe a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

The players wouldn't sit in their respective corners, on divided sides of the room. Instead, they'd be mixed among the tables, getting to know one another, being civil.

In time, the event would be sponsored by a corporation or two. Putting his money where his mouth is, Beckham says he would pay for the first event out of his own pocket. He estimates the cost could be as much as $10,000.

Why?

It matters that much to him.

Beckham came up with this idea more than a year ago. He shared his thoughts with me at a lunch last winter, just for an opinion.

I told Beckham it was a great idea, a start, but those who needed it the most wouldn't be at the event — the fans.

But it would be a start, and if opinion leaders took the lead, to change to civility by example, he might be onto something.

Beckham's been looking for somebody with enough clout to put it together and he thought he had it with Jim Wall, former publisher of the Deseret News, who is very well connected and respected by both administrations and athletic departments. But Wall said he couldn't spearhead it because of changes at the newspaper. Wall is no longer with the Deseret News.

"I'm still willing to do it, to put up the money," said Beckham, "But it has to be on a magnitude so people recognize what it is for. Nobody's willing to grasp it. I know I couldn't put it together, I don't have enough clout."

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