Baseball at root of rivalry?

By By Michael McFall

By Michael McFall

The athletic conflict between the University of Utah and Brigham Young University didn’t begin with football, although now the rivalry game is probably the most-hyped matchup between the two schools.

“Our first game was baseball, which actually broke out into a fight,” said Jeff Reynolds, BYU’s sports information director for football.

In 1895, the heated rivalry between what was then called Brigham Young Academy and the U started in a baseball game that ended in a 0-0 tie, causing members of both teams to rush out of their dugouts and onto the field to exchange blows.

The bad blood spilt on the field only grew thicker between Utes and Cougars, and it wasn’t long before the schools found themselves disagreeing about something else.

The actual timing of the beginning of the football rivalry is contested because of BYA’s name change to Brigham Young University. Utah fans might say that their football rivalry began in the late 1800s, when the U played BYA six times between 1896 and 1899, but BYU fans might say those games didn’t count because they took place before the name change in 1903.

Whether or not the early games count, the U dominated for about 40 years. Utah took home the glory every year until 1942, when BYU won its first game, 12-7. Before then, the U had won 17 out of the 20 games between the two teams and tied three times, said Liz Abel, U associate athletics director of sports information.

Just as the Cougars gained some ground, World War II put the rivalry on hold for three years. Utah resumed its dominating reputation until 1958, when the Cougars won their second game.

In November 2005, The Wall Street Journal ranked the BYU-Utah football rivalry as the fourth best in the country, right under Alabama-Auburn.

The rivalry’s reach has grown over the years, keeping fans cheering even when they live outside of Utah. For this year’s game, U alumnus Mike Havertz in San Diego and BYU alumni Jerry and Cindy Pratt in Calgary, Canada, will be rooting for their teams. Havertz and the Pratts are presidents of alumni chapters in their areas.

U alumnus Jason Barlow will watch the game even though he’ll be away from his Washington, D.C., home to visit in-laws for Thanksgiving.

“I’ll be cheering for (the Utes) as loud from my Las Vegas hotel room as I would if I was there,” Barlow said.

Bob Livsey, another U alumnus, will be watching the game at McCovey’s Restaurant in the east San Francisco Bay Area, an annual tradition he shares with more than 50 other Ute and Cougar fans.

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