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About Utah: Utes abandoning their culture in suspending rivalry with BYU

Published: Thursday, July 12 2012 8:18 p.m. MDT

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall, left, and Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham talk before the University of Utah and Brigham Young University play football Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Provo, Utah. BYU and Utah won't be playing each other in 2014 and 2015.
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall, left, and Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham talk before the University of Utah and Brigham Young University play football Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Provo, Utah. BYU and Utah won't be playing each other in 2014 and 2015. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Chris Hill and the Utes have killed off the Utah-BYU football game.

What's next? Christmas? The Fourth of July?

Things I thought I'd never see end in my lifetime: the Soviet Union. Newspapers. Utah-BYU.

Freedom killed one. The Internet is killing the other. Chris Hill killed the third.

Are you kidding me? Utah not playing BYU? What are people going to talk about at church?

And who's going to tell LaVell Edwards?

This is so wrong on so many levels it's hard to know where to start. The BYU-Utah football game is as integral a part of the fabric of the state as four seasons, dry air and Mount Timpanogos.

It's like shooting a seagull. Like re-zoning Delicate Arch for condos.

Utah Utes defensive back Quade Chappuis (19) makes an interception as BYU and Utah play Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. BYU and Utah won't be playing each other in 2014 and 2015. (Scott G Winerton, Deseret News) Utah Utes defensive back Quade Chappuis (19) makes an interception as BYU and Utah play Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. BYU and Utah won't be playing each other in 2014 and 2015. (Scott G Winerton, Deseret News)

Chris Hill's been here a long time. So has Kyle Whittingham. They know this. What the Utes are doing is nothing short of abandoning their culture.

The Utes went Hollywood faster than the Beverly Hillbillies. They've been in the Pac-12 what? One Year? And already they can't see their past on account of their wraparound shades.

They took the good fortune and fantastic timing that got them into the Pac-12 and threw away the rearview mirror.

The Utes got into the league because A) Texas didn't want to, B) BYU won't play on Sunday, and C) Kyle Whittingham runs the best football program this side of Tuscaloosa.

BYU had the better overall program. Any sports follower in the state knows that's been the case for decades. If BYU and the University of Utah were countries and they held an Olympics, BYU would be Germany, the Utes would be Lithuania.

BYU celebrates the win over Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009. BYU and Utah won't be playing each other in 2014 and 2015. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) BYU celebrates the win over Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009. BYU and Utah won't be playing each other in 2014 and 2015. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

For decades the two schools were in the same conference. BYU won three times as many overall championships as Utah in the Mountain West Conference — or anyone else. And few would argue that it was BYU's emergence as a football power in the 1970s and 1980s that motivated the U. of U. to step up its game — and make it interesting to a big-time league like the Pac-12.

If any school deserved a call-up to the next level, it was the Cougars.

But life isn't fair and college football isn't even close. You have to seize your moments when they arrive, like Utah did when it joined the Pac-12, and no one in the state is unhappy they did it.

But the Utes know it was their move that started the dominoes falling that caused BYU to decide it needed to become a football independent to survive. That put the Cougars in a position where it's imperative that quality programs fit them into their schedules. If that doesn't happen, they're sunk.

BYU running back Harvey Unga (45) runs against Utah  at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009.  BYU and Utah won't be playing each other in 2014 and 2015. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) BYU running back Harvey Unga (45) runs against Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009. BYU and Utah won't be playing each other in 2014 and 2015. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

And now … now this. The Utes are saying we'll fit you in when we can. They opened the door and tossed their old running mate to the curb.

Of course the big loser, like always, is the fan. Just another kick in the teeth. Add it to the $5 Cokes and the late-night starts because the game's on ESPN.

Fans never have the final say. For years, if they polled them, they'd have voted for a national championship in football in a second.

Same thing here. If they polled college football fans in Utah, the BYU-Utah game would never die.

But in 2014 and 2015 it will be dead, for starters. The Utes killed it. Is nothing around here sacred?

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Monday and Friday. Email: benson@desnews.com

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