Utah vs. BYU: A Statewide Rivalry

The rivalry between the University of Utah and BYU is a longstanding battle that divides the entire state in two. The universities have been competing in football, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, volleyball, and even rugby since 1890, and their rivalry has grown every year since it started. Each of the universities have their own stories as to how the rivalry began, but my favorite is that BYU supposedly stole Utah’s Statue of Brigham Young (that is still missing from the Park building today), and either threw it into the Great Salt Lake, or smelted it down into coins for the graduating class that committed the act. The duel between the universities has an extensive and fascinating history that continues to grow.

The origin of the battle between the two schools is highly debated. The U (Utah) claims that they started dueling when they beat Brigham Young Academy 6 times from 1896 to 1899, but the Y (BYU) does not count this because the school was known as BYA and not BYU. However, no matter when the rivalry started, the fans supporting the teams feel very strongly about which team is better. The first football game (that BYU claims was a scrimmage to get the teams ready for the football season) may be a great dispute between the universities and may even seem insignificant, but it was very significant to their fans. The 12-6 victory of Utah over BYU actually led to a fight between the supporters of the schools. However, the rivalry really heated up after a very tense 1977 football game where BYU beat Utah 38-8. Afterward, Utah’s coach accused BYU’s coach of running up the score and stated to the press:

“This today will be inspiring. The hatred between BYU and Utah is nothing compared to what it will be. It will be a crusade to beat BYU from now on. This is a prediction: In the next two years Utah will drill BYU someday, but we won’t run up the score even if we could set an NCAA record against them."

Since this game, the rivalry and hatred between the two schools have grown immensely and today, the entire state is split between fans who sport crimson and those who sport navy blue. The two schools have met for the Holy War 99 times, making the next game very intense, and Utah holds a healthy lead. Utah has won 61 football games, BYU has won 34, and the two teams have tied 4 times.

The annual football game of the two teams is called the Holy War because it resembles the battle between church and state. BYU is a private school owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Utah is a public school owned by the state. That, combined with the fact that both schools have a large population of members of the LDS church, leads to a very holy battle each year on the field.  

There are many ties between the two schools: many of their athletic coaches attended the U, every single church president graduated from the U rather than the Y, Brigham Young (the man for which BYU was named) founded the U, and they are just a 45-minute drive from each other. The two schools have also competed every year in football since 1922 (with the exception of 1943-1945 when the Y did not assemble a team due to WWII). This rivalry is so powerful because both schools have very successful athletic teams and thrive academically, and they are without a doubt, the two flagship universities of the state of Utah. They compete athletically, compete for students and recruits, and compete for fans across the entire state.

Recently, the past few games have been very entertaining, and the winning team has not beat the other team by very much. While Utah has won every game since they joined the Pac 12 conference, the games are still very competitive, and are watched by almost every person in the state each year. Today, Utah holds an 8 win streak of the holy war games, and BYU’s losing streak is now old enough to be baptized by the church (did you laugh? Because I did). 

Every fan has something bad to say about the other team, but all in all, the two teams have done pretty well throughout their history and are both great universities. I hope this rivalry continues to be very competitive, and that Utah continues its winning streak to beat BYU. GO UTES!


Photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4