When the Utah Utes joined the PAC 12 last season, the school took the opportunity because they felt it would open up doors that had previously been closed off to them. They were proven right when earlier this summer they announced a home-and-home series with the Michigan Wolverines starting in 2014. However, for that door to get opened, another had to be closed, and Utah has announced that it will suspend its in-state rivalry game with BYU, lovingly dubbed the Holy War, for at least a couple of years.
As of now, the Utes are scheduled to play the Cougars in 2013 and 2016, but have decided to drop their Mormon rivals for those two seasons the Utes play Big Blue. The school feels that their schedule is difficult enough that it would be “unfair” to the players to ask them to play non-conference games against Michigan and BYU in the same season. They recognize the opportunity, however, of the home-and-home series and have told their in-state rivals to cool it for a couple of seasons.
The rivalry between these Utah neighbors has grown increasingly intense over the last several years, and at times has been downright ugly.There have been fights in the stands and other ugly off-field incidents while the product on the field has also grown less family friendly. Some believe the Utes are using the Michigan series as an opportunity to move away from this traditional rivalry, a claim that Utah vehemently denies.Utes athletic director Chris Hill insists that Utah is close to a contract that would pick up this rivalry once again and continue it past the 2016 game.
So is Utah trying to escape from a rivalry that’s getting a bit too heated for comfort? Or are they merely pursuing an opportunity to raise the national exposure of the program with a series against the winningest program in college football? Whichever side of the debate you fall on, one thing is certain: this years game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the last Holy War game to take place there for four years, will be an extra fiery affair. As always, BYOB (Bring Your Own Brimstone).