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Utah-USU rivalry taking 2-year timeout

Published: Monday, Aug. 3 2015 11:50 a.m. MDT

A lengthy streak came to an end Thursday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

After meeting each year since 1944, Utah and Utah State are putting their football series — the nation's 12th most-played rivalry (109 games) — on ice for a couple of years.

An opportunity for Utah to play at Notre Dame next season led to the break.

"In many ways I don't like to see things be interrupted like this. It was a series of events that happened that made it be delayed for two years," said Utah athletic director Chris Hill. "But I think it's important to keep this kind of game going. So we'll take a two-year break, but it's not a long-term deal."

When the so-called "Battle of the Brothers" resumes, Hill is hopeful it'll be an annual affair once again.

"I would think so. I think both (USU athletic director Scott Barnes) and I want to do that," he said. "I don't envision it not happening."

For the Aggies, the temporary hiatus is something they hesitated to do, but ultimately decided it was best for the long-term goals of the program.

"This gives us some room to implement our plan," Barnes said. "And that is to get back to having six home games every year."

The series is set to resume at USU's Romney Stadium in 2012 under a four-year contract.

Barnes said Utah was willing to continue the series next year, but only if it was at Rice-Eccles Stadium as the Utes also sought to keep a six-game home schedule.

By taking two years off, the Aggies will not only avoid the lopsided schedules with road games at both Utah and BYU, they will try to schedule other — less difficult — non-conference foes from regional conferences like the MWC or Pac-10.

"We've had six home games only once in the last 12 years," Barnes said. "Just taking a couple of years off this gives us a chance to build a more competitive schedule."

HOT TICKET: If the ticket-scalping business is any indication, Thursday's USU-Utah football game was a big deal.

How big?

"I haven't seen anything like this in a long, long time," said one scalper outside Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Asked if he was talking strictly about Ute football, or other events, he said, "Things all over Salt Lake."

At 5:15 p.m., he said he had been standing outside the stadium for an hour, but no one had offered to sell him their tickets. "I haven't seen any movement at all," he said.

He added that earlier this week he saw a pair of tickets for sale online and called on them, five minutes after they were posted. He was told there had already been 20 calls.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Twenty minutes before the game started, the Ute players and coaches lined up on the east side of the field and the Aggie players and coaches lined up on the west side. On cue, they walked toward each other and the players shook hands with each other, while the coaches mostly exchanged hugs.

Was it a case of spontaneous brotherly love between in-state football rivals?

Not exactly.

The two teams were participating in a national sportsmanship initiative called "Respect Weekend" for college games played between Sept. 3-7. The initiative is a partnership between the NCAA and American Football Coaches Association.

Of the initiative, AFCA executive director Grant Teaff said, "This says to the football world, our fans, our students, our players and our athletics departments that sportsmanship is a vital part of the successful football programs we have in this country."

EXTRA POINTS: The sellout crowd of 45,333 (the ninth-largest crowd in Ute history) included a Utah record 42,000 season-ticket holders ... Eight members of USU's coaching staff have ties to Utah as coaches, assistants or administrative staffers — head coach Gary Andersen, defensive coordinator Bill Busch, offensive line coach Alex Gerke, linebackers coach Kevin Clune, defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a, running backs coach Ilaisa Tuiaki, strength coach Evan Simon and director of football operations Steve Mathis ... Scouts from the 49ers, Seahawks, Titans and Vikings were in attendance.

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com, jeborn@desnews.com. Contributing: Brad Rock, Mike Sorensen

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