The death of the holy war

The announced attendance at Monday’s BYU versus Utah basketball game was 14,072, with about a quarter wearing red. Not a very good showing for an arena that usually has its 22,700-seat capacity filled to the gills for games against the hated Utes.

What has happened to this rivalry? In the past, just the two teams getting together was cause for a sellout. It didn’t matter what the records were or whether the game was in Salt Lake City or Provo.

But lately, that rule has become the exception. Two out of the last three Utah-BYU football games have failed to sell out, and the last tilt was much more about the Utes’ BCS chances than the Holy War. Two out of the last three basketball games have suffered the same fate, with Monday night being the exclamation point.

So why the sudden downturn in fan interest?

Before the last couple of years, both school’s roles were clearly defined. BYU was the big bad villain that Ute fans hated. The Utes were the scrappy underdog that had to battle for respect in a state dyed a seemingly permanent blue.

Sure the Utes have been the dominant team over the years in basketball, but BYU fans could stomach that minor discrepancy, knowing the other sports-especially football-were well taken care of. Oh, how times have changed. The Utes have won eight of 12 in football, after BYU had won 19 of the previous 21. Urban Meyer said that Ron McBride resurrected the rivalry. Perhaps he actually hurt it by messing with the formula.

The Utes have gone 5-1 in games involving any sport this school year. The only victory for the Y came in women’s soccer, against a U team that eventually won the conference tournament.

Probable losses still loom for the Cougars with two gymnastics meets, four softball games and another men’s and women’s basketball game coming up. The only saving grace may be baseball, where the Utes figure to be facing another down year.

Sure, BYU has dominant men’s volleyball and women’s cross country teams, but those sports aren’t going to save an athletics department hurting for money and stability.

Perhaps Cougar fans would rather cast an ignorant eye than watch their teams get beaten regularly by the crimson and white.

On Utah’s side of the fence, BYU just doesn’t represent what they used to. It’s no longer a successful season if the Utes can muster a win against the Cougars. It’s a nice thing to brag about, but right now the Utes have bigger fish to fry, like the BCS and March Madness.

In 1988, beating BYU in football was cause for a yearlong celebration that still generates fond memories. Now, it is expected.

The only way to correct the imbalance and return the two schools to their gloriously hateful positions is to restore BYU as the dominant power in the state.

But for a school that is without an athletics director and quickly waking up to the fact that LaVell Edwards is not coming back, perhaps BYU will have to get used to vacating the throne.

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