SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – With the University of Utah's announcement that it will play a home-and-home series with the University of Michigan in 2014 and 2015, the Utah-BYU rivalry is now in serious jeopardy.
"It would be a crying shame," said BYU quarterback Riley Nelson on the prospect of the rivalry being discontinued. "To deprive not only the fans, the state and the schools the opportunity [to play], but the individual players, it's something that we look forward to. To deprive us of that would be a real selfish move."
The Utes and Cougars will play this September at Rice-Eccles Stadium, but beyond that nothing is scheduled.
Utah must play nine Pac-12 Conference games each year. By adding Michigan in 2014 and 2015, that would leave Utah only two non-conference games to schedule, and they will be reluctant to add another tough game like BYU, regardless of the history and tradition.
However, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall doesn't buy the scheduling excuse.
"It's where the schedule starts," Mendenhall said. "It's not an afterthought, it's where the schedule starts. I'm still waiting for a great reason for the game not to be played."
"I think it's their problem and not ours," added linebacker Kyle Van Noy. "I think we want to schedule them and they don't want to schedule us."
Utah athletic director Dr. Chris Hill was out of the state and unavailable for comment.
There still could be a deal worked out to play the game in 2013, but the deadline to schedule a game next year is rapidly approaching. Perhaps the series could take a break and return on an irregular basis. The Cougars say they are committed to making something work.
"We at BYU are very interested in continuing the rivalry series as long as we can," said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. "If Utah makes moves to change their schedule, that's their prerogative."
The rivalry began in 1922 and has become the biggest events in the state. To lose it, even for a short period of time, would be a devastating blow to both fan bases.
"You don't see other teams getting rid of their rivalries," said wide receiver Cody Hoffman. "I'd hate to lose it."
"The game has such tradition, such history and has been so important to this state, the thought that [the game] doesn't happen makes no sense to me," said Mendenhall.