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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.

UVU kicked off its awareness campaign with a corn maze in Payson at the beginning of the month. BYU had a major event Tuesday at its new broadcasting building at BYU on Nov. 13.

The biggest activity, however, is the one set up for the end of the drive, on Nov. 28 at the Wilkinson Center on BYU's campus, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

With the help of BYU dining services, the Alumni Association is creating the world's largest Cougar Tail, usually a two-foot-long maple bar sold only at basketball and football games, Isaak said.

"We are going to create a Cougar Tail that is a quarter of a mile long, and anybody who wants to come by, for $1 they can get a piece of the Cougar Tail."

The Alumni Association has contacted the Guinness Book of World Records.

"If the entire donut is sold, with the money made from it, Community Action Services will be able to provide over 50,000 pounds of food for Utah Valley families," Isaak said. "We're very excited about this event."

"We are working hard to cooperate with other organizations on campus to promote service in Utah County, to provide an avenue for students to give during the month of Thanksgiving," said Jared Colton, president of the BYU Student Alumni Association. "UVU has been excellent to work with, their volunteers are enthusiastic, they are wanting to make a difference and work with (us) to give back to the community."

Head hopes to instill a long-term spirit of giving at UVU.

"My hope is that people will be more aware of what they can do. I know a lot of people want to help, that's why BYU and UVU are working together on this, to show anyone can give," Head said. "Family members and kids, not only a UVU college student can do this. BYU alumni and their kids — everybody has an opportunity to give, every age, every gender, every lifestyle."

The website for online donations is fooddrive.byu.edu. Food can be dropped off at the Wilkinson Student Center at BYU.

Thomas Betar contributed to this report.

Mandy Morgan is an enterprise intern for the Deseret News, reporting on values in the media. She is a true-blue Aggie, studying Journalism and Political Science at Utah State University, and hails from Highland, Utah.

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