Not too long ago, phones were mounted on the kitchen wall and BYU, Utah and Utah State were vying for the Beehive Boot.
Phone calls were limited, rarely private, and the device did not involve video games. When it comes to football, state dominance was a top priority. The home team with the best record against each other won the Beehive Boot and bragged about it. There were no realistic dreams of national championships, Rose Bowls or multi-million dollar TV deals.
In 1984, everything changed.
The arrival of the cell phone to American consumers liberated humanity with mobility and eventually provided instant access to just about anything – sports, news, weather, video games, movies, and more.
Additionally, that year BYU won all 13 of its games, including the Holiday Bowl against Michigan, to capture the program’s first national championship. That a Western Athletic Conference team could do such a thing opened the eyes of those less fortunate in college football—those who play outside the walls of the power conferences.
Dreams hatched that there truly was something bigger and better to pursue. When opportunities presented themselves, BYU and Utah were ready to pounce. On June 17, 2010, the Utes left the Mountain West Conference to join the Pac-12. BYU became a football independent in 2011 and will join the Big 12 on July 1, 2023.
Progress, however, does not always come without collateral damage. When the phone was removed from the kitchen wall and placed in everyone’s pockets, parents lost control of the flow of information in and out of their homes. Adults and children have lost control of themselves with video games (and much worse) and basic communication skills have been reduced to text messages devoid of emotion and personal responsibility.
BYU and Utah’s P5 futures show promise as they seek glory and enjoy financial reward. But lost in their forward charge is Logan’s team and their annual football games that once occupied so much of everyone’s attention.
Battle of the Brothers
The Aggies and Utes met on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1892, in the first game of both football programs. Utah Agriculture College beat the University of Utah 12-0. The teams went on to play 112 games, including every season between 1944 and 2009. The rivalry has been referred to as a “battle of brothers”.
When the invitation came for the Utes to join the Pac-12, which bolstered their schedule and reduced their availability for non-conference games, Utah State and its entire history with the Utes became, well, the ‘story.
The teams managed to play in 2012 at Logan, where the Aggies won 27-20 in overtime. Utah won close games at home in 2013 and 2015 and that’s it. There are no future matches scheduled between the two.
The old wagon wheel
BYU and the State of Utah meet annually with the winner claiming possession of the Old Wagon Wheel. It’s a trophy made from an old pioneer wagon wheel that’s way too big for a trophy case. The Cougars picked him up from Utah State in 2019 and retained ownership after winning last year at Logan.
The teams first played in 1922, with the Aggies winning 42-3. The programs will meet for the 91st time on September 29 in Provo. After BYU canceled all four games scheduled for 2023-26, no future games are scheduled. The winner of the September game could own the Old Wagon Wheel for a long time.
The greatest piece of history that BYU and the State of Utah share is the late LaVell Edwards. The Hall of Fame Cougars coach played football for the Aggies. It seems only fitting that the last scheduled meeting between the two will take place at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
With the Cougars leading the series 50-37-3, including 21-5 in the last 26 meetings, the rivalry has grown in intensity both on and off the court.
With the invitation to join the Big 12, BYU’s freedom to schedule non-conference games should be limited to three per season, and with the Utes on the schedule from 2024-2028, the Aggies are being pushed out.
As BYU, Utah and Utah State played regularly in 1971, the Beehive Boot was established as the prize they were fighting for. At one point, the band also included Weber State. Sports Illustrated described the boot as college football’s weirdest trophy. He held his leather until 2016 after the Utes stopped scheduling the Aggies.
The Cougars beat both Utah and Utah State last season and won the boot from the University of Utah, where it remains in possession of BYU.
Utah State is 0-2 against Progress and none of that is their fault. The Aggies are title contenders in the Mountain West Conference and are coming off an 11-3 season. But, in preparation for life in the Big 12, BYU just did to the Aggies what Utah did to them in 2010 when the Utes joined the Pac-12.
Oh, while relations seem to be breaking down, the two sporting directors promised on Thursday to keep in touch and maybe even meet somewhere down the road. But it’s a separation that could stick, and in some ways that’s a shame. It’s a fun series that fans enjoy.
Not only is BYU’s new life in the Big 12 a game-changer, it’s also a schedule change, and while uncertainty surrounds how new it all is, one thing is certain, this old phone isn’t coming back on the kitchen wall. and the Beehive Boot is history.
Progress is about moving forward, despite the collateral damage. For BYU, there is no time to look back because there is too much to see ahead.
Dave McCann is a contributor to Deseret News and is the studio host for “After Further Review”, co-host of “Countdown to Kickoff” and the “Postgame Show” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv.