Brad Rock: BYU, Utah — married for eternity

By Brad Rock, Deseret News

Published: Sat, July 26, 2014, 11:40 p.m. MDT

 BYU's Taysom Hill is tackled by Utah's Jared Norris as the University of Utah and Brigham Young University play football Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Provo.

BYU's Taysom Hill is tackled by Utah's Jared Norris as the University of Utah and Brigham Young University play football Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Provo.

(Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Utah and BYU aren’t in the same league anymore and don’t even meet for the next two seasons. That’s OK, because the trash talking between players has become pretty tame.

There’s no Lenny Gomes saying future Utes will be pumping his gas and no Max Hall saying he hates all things Utah. But that doesn’t keep the fans from carrying on. Check any comment board or call-in show. There the rivalry continues unabated: which team has the better situation (Utah); which has the greater tradition (BYU); which owns the rivalry (Utah, lately); which is more successful (BYU, lately).

While both teams say they want the rivalry to continue, the two-year break is being viewed with relief by some fans, which feel things have become too nasty. Yet no matter how far the teams go to separate themselves, something keeps pulling them back. BYU can go its merry independent way and Utah can join a Power 5 conference, but they still get compared — even by the national media.

The latest twist came in a Wall Street Journal article entitled “A Radical Realignment Plan for College Football.” It outlined a study by two Ohio State researchers, who evaluated the “football strength” of the nation’s best programs, regardless of geography or conference. In the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, Brian Turner and Jonathan Jensen factored attendance, winning percentage, revenue and computer rankings from 2003 to 2013. Then they proposed four major “clusters” of top college football programs.

Sure enough, Utah and BYU were in the same division.

These schools can’t get rid of one another. It’s like seeing a longtime acquaintance in the deli section of a grocery store. You make small talk, shake hands, and two minutes later you meet again in the frozen foods. Five minutes after that, you end up together in the checkout line.

The study suggested a top cluster would include Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas. In the second division were Clemson, Florida State, Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska, Oregon, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, USC and Wisconsin. Third: Arizona State, Arkansas, California, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Miami, Ole Miss, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and Washington.

In the fourth division were, naturally, Utah and BYU, as inseparable as peanut butter and jelly. Also in the fourth cluster were Boise State, Louisville, Missouri, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

One question: Why is Cal in anyone’s division?

Equally interesting is that Vanderbilt, Arizona, Illinois, Iowa State, Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina and Boston College were among 23 power conference schools that were not included.

Doug Flutie must be choking on his Wheaties.

Does anyone remember when Pitt was a threat? Apparently not.

Last year’s Big 12 champion, Baylor, was nowhere on the list and national champion Florida State was slotted in the second cluster. OK, so it’s a 10-year study.

The big story from a local perspective is that Utah and BYU are still considered in the same class. Try as they might, they can’t separate themselves. BYU brags about its winning seasons and long bowl streak. Utah counters with its tougher schedule, its BCS wins, and its big-conference alignment.

Beginning this year, the schools are taking the longest break since World War II. Yet here they are, bumping into each other in the produce section of the grocery store.

Some say Utah’s Pac-12 affiliation will grind BYU into mid-major dust as things progress. Others say Utah will never go beyond doormat status in its conference and BYU will soon be in the Big 12.


I figure they’re bound to be in the same company — though not the same conference — forever.

In a classic movie, a woman named Karen Holmes and Sergeant Milton Warden have a conversation that sounds a lot like a Utah-BYU exchange.

Holmes: “Where are you going?”

Warden: “I’m leaving. Isn’t that what you want?”

Holmes: “I don’t know, Sergeant. I don’t know.”

The film? Same as the football rivalry: From Here to Eternity.

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged

1. Chris B
Salt Lake City, UT,
July 26, 2014


No, we divorced them. Our choice not theirs. We got a much better offer than staying with byU. byu has not done what is necessary the last decade while conferences have been shifting to warrant an invite. We did.

The moment the Pac 12 called - our relationship with byu was forever terminated. Sure, we're still neighbors geographically. But so are Tennessee and Middle Tennesse state, one of byu's new rivals.

The power conferences are gaining more power and money and frankly we don't care if that hurts the mid majors. This is a business, and we wont apologize for moving ahead of byu or usu or Wyoming or the other mid majors.

Every school is where they should be with what they have done in terms of academics and football success.

If byu had 2 undefeated seasons, 2 BCS bowl wins including a huge beatdown over Alambama in the past decade, byu would be in a power conference.

Who knows, maybe we(the Pac 12) would have even invited you.

But they didn't.

So they're not.

And the door has closed.

Goodbye byu. You and usu will always have each others as mid majors friends

2. FatMan86
West Jordan, UT,
July 26, 2014

Both schools are similarly connected in that neither is relevant any more because neither is consistently beating quality opponents.

Outside of the Beehive state, Utah is regarded as a Big 5 doormat, and BYU is an unwanted outsider. This would change if each program would start winning again....against quality competition. Because neither is doing that, both fan bases have to make noise about silly things like membership (or not) and ESPN media exposure.

Despite not being in the same conference, I do t see much of a difference as long as the quality wins aren't there.

3. Chris B
Salt Lake City, UT,
July 26, 2014

Army has a great football tradition too.

I wonder why the big boy conferences don't want them either?

4. umanami
Draper, UT,
July 26, 2014

Hey Rock, Nice try. Reaching, reaching, missed! You wish.

5. Riley Mendenhall
Provo, UT,
July 26, 2014

The Utes definitely wear the pants in this relationship.