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BYU, Utah end rivalry over food drive, launch different efforts

Published: Friday, Nov. 16 2012 11:40 p.m. MST

In this 2008 file photo, paper marks are taped to the wall of the front office of the Deseret First Credit Union main office as part of the annual BYU-Utah rivalry food drive. Brigham Young University is teaming up with Utah Valley University this holiday season.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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Another piece of the BYU-Utah football rivalry is dead.

For 18 years, the conference rivals engaged in a competitive food drive to see which fan base could donate the most money and food leading up to their big, late-November rivalry game. Traditionally, the game fell right before or right after Thanksgiving, and the donations went to food banks providing for the needy.

Last year, the two football teams went separate ways, Utah to the Pac-12 and BYU to independence, but the November food drive went on without a November football game.

This year, the schools' food drives parted ways, too.

BYU chose instead to team up with Utah Valley University for a food drive called "Valley United Against Hunger." The drive began Monday and ends Nov. 30.

Now on its own, the U. launched the Unrivaled Rivalry Food Drive, under way since Nov. 5 and ending Nov. 24.

"With the realignment in the conferences and the uncertainty of future BYU vs. U of U games … we decided to focus on the valley here and join forces with UVU," said Curtis Isaak, BYU Alumni Services coordinator and adviser to Student Alumni Association.

Last year, BYU and the U. collected 200,000 pounds of food and more than $45,000. BYU and UVU hope to beat those numbers, with all the proceeds going to the Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo.

Part of that success grew out of the competition, said John Fakler, director of Alumni Relations at the U.

"In the days of the rivalry we could say, 'Here help support the food drive,' and people would give us a couple bucks," he said. "But if we said, 'Help us beat BYU,' then you might have people pulling out a five, ten or even a $20 bill."

Both food drives expect to do well.

"This year we have pretty lofty goals," Isaak said. "The number of people in Utah County that live in poverty is around 73,000. If you take the number of seats in LaVell Edwards Stadium (BYU) and the number of seats in the UCCU Center (UVU), it comes to around 70,000.

The schools have set a goal to raise at least $1 or 17 pounds of food for each seat in both buildings. Community Services can convert, with its resources and relationships, every dollar donated into 17 pounds of food.

The U. isn't sure how the loss of its rival will impact its food drive.

“Part of me says we can overcome the lack of a rivalry and part of me says maybe not," Fakler said, "but it’s not going to be from a lack of trying.”

Saturday's football game and next week are the biggest days of the U.'s drive.

"This year there have been a few businesses that have not been really interested," he said, "but there have been others that have really stepped up. The last few days have been quite heartwarming to me.”

"We are trying to emphasize that every dollar is more usable," said Ashlee Head, vice president of philanthropy for the UVU Student Alumni Association. "We can also take cans, but we want to emphasize that money is more important."

It is easier to take money to the store and get the food needed, Head said, and Community Action Services can leverage its partnerships with stores to get more food.

"Our goal is to make this the biggest food drive in Utah County history," Eric Lafferty, spokesman for Community Services, said. "We are reaching out to schools, owners of businesses … it's a collective effort."

Both universities have already made the commitment to Community Services to make the food drive an annual one, Lafferty said.

"It's been a great collaborative effort … they got together student and alumni, they made it an issue of being a food drive to fight hunger, they have been awesome about getting the word out and getting students engaged," he said.

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