This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Much has been written, discussed, argued, including in this space, about the Utah-BYU rivalry and the importance/usefulness of having the Cougars and Utes continue with annual games that have been played for over 100 years.
A new twist to that rivalry is the dichotomy of the coaches and their relationships from both schools in the two major sports: Kyle Whittingham and Kalani Sitake versus Larry Krystkowiak and Dave Rose.
It's no secret that Bronco Mendenhall and Whittingham didn't like each other. And Krystkowiak's recent move, canceling the Utes' game in Provo next season, tells you pretty much all you need to know about his standing with Rose. It's not good.
But Whittingham and Sitake are friends and perhaps can set a new tone for an old rivalry.
They both played at BYU, though not concurrently, and worked together for many seasons at Utah, and the admiration they have for one another is plain and clear. Sitake calls Whittingham one of the major influences in his coaching career, and Whittingham sees Sitake as a trusted war buddy. He was genuinely happy when Sitake was hired as a head coach.
"I have so much respect for Kyle, and am grateful for what I learned from him and the chance to coach with him," Sitake says. "I have respect for Utah, the program and the school. I have family members and friends connected with both schools. I hope the rivalry can be a positive, hard-fought one. There's no reason for it not to be."
Sitake was just getting warmed up.
"I don't know exactly how the rivalry is supposed to be. I just know how I am. People can and will do whatever they want. But Kyle and I are close. I still consider him a mentor. We're in communication a lot. We plan to play golf together this summer. We hang out together. Our wives talk to each other. I talk with people in Kyle's family. He's a lot better golfer than I am, but we enjoy each other's company. I'm close with some of the other coaches at Utah, Justin Ena and Lewis Powell. When we played at BYU, Justin and I were inseparable.
"We really are like brothers. It's like competing with your brothers. Where does it say that in order to compete, to be competitive, you have to have ill feelings?"
"My relationship with Kyle will never change. It's about people, not colors. There are great people on both sides."
Whittingham is on the record regarding Sitake, saying: "I've got a great relationship with him, and that doesn't really change no matter where you coach. I've got nothing but the utmost respect for him."
As Sitake said, they still want to crush each other on the field. That's what brothers do.
But there is no poison in their relationship.
There is poison between Krystkowiak and Rose.
Poison that should be extracted. Nobody knows when it will be. There has been talk of an annual tournament among in-state schools, but nothing confirmed as far as the basketball rivalry being resumed. It remains a circumstance that is absurd and totally addressable and fixable, if adults came to the table and worked it out.
If football can see the rivalry game extended, basketball has no excuse.
It's the fashionable trash-talk of the day for some Utah fans to say, "We don't need BYU anymore." Those people have forgotten from where they came. These are two major universities, with major sports programs, that are 45 miles apart. No matter what conference Utah plays in, or what conference BYU doesn't play in, they will always be geographically hitched.
Half the street will be blue, half will be red.
That doesn't change with league affiliation. It doesn't change with newfound hubris. It doesn't change with cultural loathing. It doesn't change with self-righteousness.
Many people in the state love the rivalry and think it should go on, especially in basketball and football. They enjoy the interaction with neighbors, co-workers, family members, who root for the other team and, in some cases, whose identity is firmly tied to that particular partisanship.
Some are tired of the never-ending animosity, the ugly back-and-forth that, in the extreme, has grown from a healthy sports rivalry into something else, into unhealthy excuses to either ridicule or hate on a religion and those whose faith connects them to it or climb up on a pedestal to lord over others by way of some misplaced notion of moral superiority.
Some are otherwise reasonable people who, for whatever reason insecurity, frustration in other parts of their lives, a deep need for identifying with a team find themselves not giving an inch when it comes to the blue and the red. Everything on the one side is great, everything on the other side is worthless.
Such extremes are ridiculous and, luckily, perpetuated by a relatively small percentage of the fan bases. Still, that percentage is loud, especially when it comes to social media and the keyboard courage stirred so aggressively and bravely by way of facelessness and namelessness.
Anybody can be a tough hombre when shielded by anonymity and a cool screen name.
Most people get it, that the rivalry is about sports and good-natured communal goofing and teasing and ribbing and bragging rights, and should not be used as a hateful hammer to be swung on the other guys for their beliefs, for their behaviors, for their lifestyles, for the beverages they choose to drink or choose not to drink, for their anything … other than just plain football and basketball.
That's why Krystkowiak and Rose and fans from both schools should aspire to be like Whittingham and Sitake: Friendly and fierce rivals who want to stand triumphant over the other guy, whatever color he's wearing. To do that, they have to play.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.