In tireless pursuit of truth, the Rock Report often goes where other pollsters fear to tread. For instance, the campuses of BYU and Utah during rivalry week.
Yet at BYU, the only real sign of pending trouble was the cellophane wrap around the statues to discourage vandalism. Up at the U., there were no such preparations. All that was going on there Wednesday was a sign-up for Greenpeace.
Save the rivalry? They were busy saving the planet.
Although the Rock Report has often gauged the moods of Utah and BYU fans, this year it took a different approach. It didn't ask who would win the game. Rather, it asked fans at BYU if they would prefer a win over No. 20 Notre Dame or rival Utah. Later, it polled fans at Utah as to whether they would rather see the Utes beat BYU or No.2-ranked Southern Cal.
Although the U. has made a big deal about being in the Pac-12 and moving on, apparently the student body never got the memo. Of 10 people polled on the Utah campus — five of each gender — nine said they'd rather beat BYU than USC.
As Ryan, a senior history major pointed out, "sports are about rivalries."
He went on to note that rivalries in ancient Rome spanned 800 years. One riot alone, following a chariot race, lasted three weeks.
"It just boils over," he said.
Doesn't Max Hall know it.
Romans wrote curses upon their enemies and buried the scrolls under chariot tracks, Ryan continued.
"So I'm all about the rivalry," he concluded.
The lone vote for a win over USC came from McKay, a junior biology major from Encinitas, Calif. His reasoning was that the undefeated 2004 Utes never got the chance to play for a national championship, while undefeated USC went on to win the title.
"I didn't feel like we got a fair shot," he said.
While rivalry sentiment was running strong at Utah, the mood at BYU this week was one of, well, moderation in all things. Of 10 students interviewed, six said they would rather see BYU beat Utah and four said they'd rather see the Cougars beat Notre Dame.
Jordan, an exercise science major, said a win over the Irish would better serve BYU's aspirations, but added, "In all actuality, I really don't care all that much."
Indeed, there was a fairly significant strain of ambivalence at BYU. For instance, there was Paul, a wildlife conservation major, who said he'd rather see the Cougs beat Notre Dame.
"But I'd like to see Utah win, honestly, because everybody else wants BYU to win. I'm going against the flow," he said.
Brandt, who is studying military chaplaincy at BYU, took a decidedly clerical approach. He said he'd rather beat Utah than Notre Dame, but hastened to add, "I think it's a good, healthy rivalry."
Where's he been living, in a monastery?
Jason, a junior studying civil engineering at BYU, said he'd rather see a win over Notre Dame because it might lead to better bowl invitations. Jessica, a junior from Indiana studying family life, said she would prefer a win over Utah because, "I'm a Notre Dame fan."
Speaking of fans from other places, Ryan, a civil engineering major from Boise, said, "Not being from Utah, I really don't feel the rivalry as much." He went on to say he'd rather see BYU beat Utah than Notre Dame, but "the one I'm most excited for is for Boise State to beat BYU. But don't put that in there."
Rock On wouldn't think of it.
Aubreigh, a junior economics major, said "absolutely Utah," when asked which team she'd like the Cougars to beat. "You've got to beat your rival."
Marah, a freshman from Michigan, majoring in music dance theater, said, "I'd rather see them beat Notre Dame." She pronounced it Notrah Daahm as though she were, you know, onstage.
Clearly she hasn't been around long enough to know the theatrics of Utah vs. BYU.
At both schools, though, the majority of students said they'd choose beating their rival over beating a nationally renowned team. They prefer the old and familiar to the new and glamorous, even if it only seems they've been bickering for 800 years.
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