The Last Battle for the Old Wagon Wheel is happening in September... and I have thoughts
I was on the 40-yard line at Maverik Stadium this past year when BYU and Utah State played. There was a play in the third quarter (I think?) where the Utah State offense subbed a player out. The ref stood over the ball and allowed BYU's defense to make their own substitutions, per the rules of the game. The sub happened late in the play clock and the refs looked sort of confused as they were trying to hurry so the Aggies could get the play off but still allow BYU the requisite amount of time to make their subs. In the end, Utah State head coach Blake Anderson was pissed at the refs for not getting off the ball and letting his offense run their play. Kalani Sitake was pissed because he had to burn a timeout because the refs didn't give him enough time to make his defensive subs following Utah State's subs. Both teams were mad. The refs were really the clowns in the situation.
The Utah State fan to the left of me started screaming at the refs, like you'd expect the home team crowd to do. His screaming felt a little obnoxious because he was blaming the refs for being pro-BYU or something, but it wasn't anything you wouldn't expect from a home fan.
My friend sitting next to me was confused what the rule was, so I answered his question and explained the rules and how both teams had reason to be upset by the refs.
The fan to the right of me, seemingly feeding off the fan to the left of me, decided to offer his two cents into the conversation.
"The refs have to let them play!" he said.
I tried to explain the rule to him but it delved into something about BYU being dumb blah blah blah. I typically don't engage in this kind of rivalry nonsense, but this dude kept going - and unlike the dude to the right who was just cheering for his squad, this dude was making it personal and about me. I got angry and started firing back.
His wife ended up stepping in and helping everyone calm down.
BYU ended up winning the game. As the team was celebrating on the sidelines, they started jawing with the Utah State student section that was literally just a ditch away from them. (Yes, a ditch. There is a weird gutter on the sideline where the field's water runoff runs into. It's bizarre.) The students starting throwing stuff, the players started yelling and screaming. It was ugly.
The game, however, was a lot of fun from a pure football standpoint. The fan to my right, while an obnoxious fan of the home team, made the environment fun and it was fans like him who made it really tough on opposing teams. If everyone was like that guy, the game would be fun.
The fan to my left was a Muppet who made the experience personal and unenjoyable. If everyone fan was like him, then Utah State fans would be, well, Wyoming fans.
And this is the perfect illustration for how I feel about the cancellation of the future BYU and Utah State games. On the right hand, I'm going to miss this game because it really was a fun rivalry, even if not on the same level as the rivalry with Utah. On the left hand, Utah State fans have been known to make things so damn obnoxious that the very idea of being there is downright unbearable.
(Suffice to say, Utah State fans feel the exact same way about BYU fans.)
USU AD John Hartwell and BYU AD Tom Holmoe announced that after 2022, all future games between their two programs have been cancelled. BYU needs room on the schedule for Big 12 games and Utah State is, apparently, a victim of BYU's P5 future.
It's a sad thing to not play the in-state Aggies, it really is. Utah State has been great for BYU throughout the independence era. BYU would have been fine without the Aggies on their schedule, but there is no denying that the game meant something whenever it came up on the schedule. And even if you hate the Aggies with all of your heart, there is something about the regional rivalries of college football going away that is sad.
But at the same time, good riddance. Don't let your udders get too chapped as you complain about your future.
There is some irony in this move by BYU that we have to acknowledge. Utah fans have been clamoring for the Utes to stop scheduling BYU for the last 10 years, much to the chagrin of BYU fans. In Utah's minds, there was no upside to playing BYU. It was an emotional rivalry that presented little gain for Utah if they won, and a ton of potential loss if they were to lose the game.
BYU fans disagreed.
BYU vs. Utah State is not the same as BYU vs. Utah, but it is kind of funny how the tables have turned. BYU is making the same arguments in justifying this decision as Utah has used for the last decade. Utah State is now arguing the same way that BYU fans did for the last decade.
Just kind of funny, really.
In the end, this is the right decision for BYU. Utah State and BYU don't really recruit against one another, they don't play for the same goals, and they don't play at the same level of college football anymore. Because of that, there is nothing but risk for BYU when they play Utah State. Cancelling this game is the right football move for the Cougars.
But it is at least a little sad, right?