Tempers are flaring about the Holy War rivalry, and Utah and BYU are not even playing this season, after Utah athletic director Dr. Chris Hill stated, "The deep, dark dirty secret is our fans are not disappointed [about not playing BYU]," in an interview with the Deseret News, which can be found in full here. After negative comments were made towards Dr. Hill from a local radio show host, he felt he needed to issue a statement on the Utah-BYU rivalry. Below is the statement in its entirety.
"I was very disappointed at the inflammatory statements made today by a local radio host toward me personally in regards to the Utah-BYU football rivalry and I feel it is important to shed some light on the topic.
"The message I have received loud and clear from Utah season ticket holders is that they support our decision to take a two-year hiatus from the BYU rivalry in order to play Michigan at our place.
"With a nine-game Pac-12 Conference schedule, we are not going to hand our football coach and team a non-conference schedule with Michigan, Utah State and BYU in the same year. Utah State and BYU are very good teams and instate games take an emotional toll that could impact our success in Pac-12 play.
"The Michigan game is attracting more national publicity than we've had for maybe any non-conference home game in our history. There is a tremendous excitement surrounding the game from our fans. We anticipate it will also draw the largest TV audience we've had for a game televised from Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"I've talked to (BYU athletics director) Tom Holmoe on several occasions about our future scheduling. We are already scheduled to meet in 2016, '17 and '18, and on Tom's desk is a contract for 2019 and 2020, which we sent on July 30. We have also discussed tentative dates for 2021 and 2022.
"Neither Tom nor I like to announce things until we have signed contracts in hand, but the circumstances today, when my personal integrity was attacked, led me to believe it is important to let people in the state know our future plans."
While it may be controversial to say, I believe Dr. Hill is completely correct about the Utah-BYU rivalry. In our weekly podcast last week, Daniel Shane, and I discussed whether or not we missed the rivalry, and none of us did. Our colleagues over at Vanquish the Foe posted an article arguing the most Utah fans do miss the rivalry. In the article, Kevin Kennedy writes, "it seems hard to believe that such a large majority of Utah fans really don't want to play this game. It seems more likely that public posturing over how it 'doesn't matter' as a way of sticking it to their rivals." Whether fans miss the Utah-BYU game or not, I think the following point by Dr. Hill is something for fans to keep in mind when thinking about the rivalry.
"With a nine-game Pac-12 Conference schedule, we are not going to hand our football coach and team a non-conference schedule with Michigan, Utah State and BYU in the same year. Utah State and BYU are very good teams and instate games take an emotional toll that could impact our success in Pac-12 play."
As I stated in our podcast, Utah is 0-6 in the game before and the game after BYU since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. Utah also had their first, and so far only, winning season in the Pac-12 in the only year they did not play BYU. This all may be coincidence, but the rivalry game with BYU is emotional and that could take a toll on Utah's performance in the game before and the game after BYU. With Utah and BYU being in different conferences, it changes the impact that the rivalry has because it has no bearing on how Utah does in the Pac-12, where in the past, it might be the game that decided who would win the Mountain West Conference. Michigan is a marquee nonconference opponent, and the game will garner a huge amount of attention around the nation. The game will likely "draw the largest TV audience we've had for a game televised from Rice-Eccles Stadium," as Dr. Hill stated.
Sound off in the comments section and the poll on whether or not you miss the Utah-BYU rivalry.