There should be no excuses. The rivalry game has to happen. Bronco Mendenhall had it right at BYU media day this past week when he said the schedule should begin with the rivalry game. It shouldn't be an afterthought.
I understand BYU's frustration. I also understand they need the game much more than Utah does.
BYU is filling it schedule with Idaho and New Mexico State in November. The Utes have nine Pac-12 Conference games to play, and have now added Michigan for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. More annual Big Ten matchups are coming in 2017. But that should not excuse them from scheduling BYU.
Utes athletic director Dr. Chris Hill rhetorically asked me this week if he should have told Michigan, "No, sorry, you can't come here." He said he would be driven out of town if he did that. Of course he can't say no to Michigan. But that doesn't preclude him from saying yes to BYU.
True, the rivalry has changed. Not being in the same conference will do that. It's never going to be played as the last game of the year anymore. But that doesn't mean it has to be interrupted.
I don't buy the "tough schedule" excuse. Basically for Utah, they would be trading BYU for another automatic win against a WAC or Big Sky school. Not every Pac-12 team is that great anyway. It's not like they are playing USC and Oregon every week. They should be good enough to handle the Washington States and Arizonas of the league.
There is room for BYU. There should always be room for BYU. Utah can still win a conference title and contend for a national championship by playing BYU.
I get that Utah is trying to tell their arch rivals that they don't really need them anymore now that they're in the Pac-12. It's a bit of a ego move by Utah, and seeing the way BYU has been perceived over the years, perhaps it's deserved.
But this game goes beyond egos and scheduling problems. It's too important to too many people. The entire state of Utah stops when the Cougars and Utes get together. It unites and divides families and friends from Logan to St. George. It needs to happen every year. It has to happen.
Unfortunately, it looks like it won't.