When one thinks of the legacy of athletes, one can often imagine the sports they belong to as immortal — never ending, always present and eternal bodies of work that their favorite athletes and franchises contribute to the stories of. Nobody thinks of a time in sports before the existence of great teams like the Green Bay Packers, the New York Yankees or the Boston Celtics. For many of the students at the University of Utah, our football team may seem old enough to be immortal. The team, however, has roots that span over 125 years of rich history, which the team will celebrate this season. The team will don a celebratory patch on the left shoulder of their uniform during every game of the 2018 season and promotional material will accompany the team’s media throughout the year.
The University of Utah’s time on the field has been littered with both immense success and complete failure. The team has played all but two years since 1892, with one year being canceled due to funding and the other to World War I. In that span, Utah football found early success with Joe Maddock as the team’s first official coach. In six seasons with the university, Maddock led the team to a 28-9-1 record, as well as coaching track and basketball. The Utes joined their first conference in 1910, joining the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, and would spend the next 20 years playing against schools such as the University of Colorado Boulder, Idaho State University and a little-known college out of Provo: Brigham Young University.
The rivalry that the U shares with the Cougars of BYU has spanned almost as long as both respective programs have existed. In 98 meetings, the Utes lead the series by a wide margin of 60-34-4, with decades of dominance by both programs. It is impossible to talk about the rich history of football culture of either school without mentioning the other. The respective schools have had their rivalries with other universities around the country, but the “Holy War” between the two powerhouse schools in the state is a defining element in sports itself.
The Utes have had a plethora of historically talented coaches in its time on the field. From Ike Armstrong, who coached the Utes to a 141-55 record across 25 years, to Urban Meyer, who led the Utes to their first undefeated season and highest ever national ranking at #4 to end the 2004 year, the university has found extraordinary coaching talent in its lifetime. Now, Kyle Whittingham holds the reins to Utah’s foreseeable future, amassing 104 wins in 12 years with the team, after being promoted up from Defensive Coordinator alongside Meyer. Whittingham also led the Utes to an undefeated season in 2008, ending with a convincing victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl, and finished #2 overall in the country according to the AP Coaches Poll.
The University of Utah has a rich history of football excellence. With many successes behind them, it is only fitting that they would look to the future with the same light and intense will to succeed.