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The Utah Legislature is full of self-described small government types who get apoplectic over any hints of federal government overreach in their lives and those of their constituents — especially if Barack Obama can be blamed for the intrusion.

But if they are the ones doing the intruding, they do it with zeal.

Our esteemed conservative legislators have no problem forcing property owners and institutions to allow gun toters onto their premises, whether they want them or not.

The Legislature engaged in a bitter court battle with the University of Utah over that institution of learning's attempts to keep guns off campus. Legislative leaders even threatened to cut then-U. of U. President Bernie Machen's salary over the issue.

They have no problem micromanaging public education, even to the point of forcing public schools to order software systems the educators themselves might not like, often from private vendors who happen to be favorites of certain legislators.

Now, it's come to the point in which some lawmakers believe it is the prerogative of the Legislature to tell our public universities who they must play in basketball and football.

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, attended Brigham Young University and is an unapologetic, vociferous Cougar fan. He created a firestorm of sorts when he suggested on a radio program that there could be legislation introduced to address the University of Utah's decision to cancel its scheduled 2016 basketball game with BYU because of Ute Coach Larry Krystkowiak's concerns about player safety.

Hughes defended his comments, saying they were in response to an interviewer's questions and that he hasn't spent that much time on the issue. But he went on to make the case as to why legislative intervention in the Utah/BYU rivalry would be justified.

The Legislature pours millions of dollars into the University of Utah, you see, and in order to back out of a scheduled game with BYU, the taxpayer backed university must pay $80,000 to the privately owned school in Provo.

Is this a wise way to spend taxpayer dollars? Hughes' asks that question without blinking about a legislative committee's approval of a $14 million commitment to sue the federal government over control of public lands — a quest most thoughtful lawyers say is fruitless.

To be sure, many Utah fans are as disappointed as BYU fans about the cancellation of the game and the threat to the rivalry's continued existence.

But the Cougar fans have most loudly taken umbrage, and I'm wondering if the large number of BYU alumni in the Legislature may be a motivation for legislative interference.

Ten Republican members of the Senate and 25 Republican House members went to BYU. By contrast, five Republican senators and 16 GOP representatives went to Utah.

I'm only counting Republicans because their dominant numbers in the Legislature make the Democrats irrelevant.

The noise generated mostly from Utah County discounts Krystkowiak's legitimate concerns. The latest incident of gratuitous violence was BYU guard Nick Emery's sucker punch to the jaw of Utah's Brandon Taylor. What may have triggered Krystkowiak's decision more than the punch was the reaction of Cougar student athletes and BYU officials. They really didn't seem to care much.

A good example of the toxicity that has developed in this rivalry was a post by a BYU fan, an attorney, on the BYU fan site Cougarboard.

He said the cancellation wasn't so much about concern over the players' safety as much as it was the fact that Utah fans are a bunch of counter-culture hipsters who have no moral compass and have disdain over the righteousness exemplified by the BYU community.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. We've heard that narrative before.

Where have you gone, Max Hall? —