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When counting college degrees, more Utah legislators bleed BYU blue

By Miranda Collette

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Feb. 9 2014 4:41 p.m. MST

While the University of Utah holds the upper hand in the all-time win-loss record of the football rivalry that pits the Utes against BYU’s Cougars, among Utah’s 104 lawmakers, Cougar blue runs deepest in this reddest of states.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — While the University of Utah holds the upper hand in the all-time win-loss record of the football Holy War that pits the Utes against BYU’s Cougars, among Utah’s 104 lawmakers, Cougar blue runs deepest in this reddest of states.

Thirty-eight Utah lawmakers hold a bachelor’s or graduate degree from Brigham Young University, while 33 hold similar degrees from the University of Utah.

Utah State University degree holders trail at 18, while 10 legislators hold Weber State University degrees.

BYU alumnus Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, has fond memories of his days at BYU. Coach LaVell Edwards recruited Gibson to play for the BYU football team at his Texas home when he was 17.

He and other lawmakers noted the friendly rivalry that exists between BYU and Utah alumni, but, in true political fashion, were diplomatic with their comments about it.

“I think for the most part we all know where we are from, so during big sporting events we’ll support a tie or a color for our school, but, in the end, (Utah is) just a good place to live and a good place to serve,” Gibson said.

Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, who graduated magna cum laude in journalism from the U., laughed at the suggestion of any hidden school rivalries within the Legislature.

“I think rivalries are fun, if they are spirited but not mean,” Jones said. “I love everybody. I love BYU, Utah, Republicans and Democrats. … I’m an all-inclusive senator.”

However, on the first day of the 45-day session when Jones wore a blue suit, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, jokingly accused her of being a BYU fan.

Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, a freshman lawmaker, was sworn into office on Jan. 16 and is a University of Utah graduate. During Spendlove’s second semester at the U., Matt Burbank, his American government teacher, told him “people using public policy and economic theory can actually impact the economy.”

Ever since then, when he was just 18, Spendlove knew he wanted to one day secure a seat in the state Capitol.

As one of Utah’s newest lawmakers, Spendlove also knows that he wants to avoid any embarrassing moments like the one he had years ago while in college.

“It was a snow day … and I thought it would be good to have snow boots on a snow day so I had these gigantic Sorels, so I essentially showed up in class looking like Napoleon Dynamite," he said.

There aren't just Cougars, Utes, Aggies and Wildcats on Capitol Hill. A majority of lawmakers’ degrees come from 27 different West Coast schools, 13 of which are located in Utah.

When it comes to East Coast higher education, only eight degrees come from that part of the nation, with Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, sporting a law degree from noted Ivy League Cornell University Law School.

Other degrees that make up this year’s Legislature include: Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, University of Notre Dame; Rep. Stewart Barlow, R-Fruit Heights, Georgetown University; and Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, Loyola University in Chicago.

For some lawmakers, one or two degrees is not enough.

Knudson went to school for a total of 11 years, with four different degrees and one certificate to become an orthodontist. The senator joined the Sigma Chi Fraternity his freshman year at the U., and then joined the same fraternity at Utah State University after serving an LDS mission.

“We had a great time. They were all great guys, but many of us were more devoted to the good time then to our education,” Knudson said. “We finally saw the light and started getting busy with studies.”

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