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Will changes in BYU-Utah rivalry hurt charity effort?

Will changes in BYU-Utah rivalry hurt charity effort?


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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah and BYU are ready to face each other on the football field Saturday, but that's not the only time they get together.

The rivals have meant a lot of money for other causes over the years. But there's concern the changing dynamic of the football rivalry means one charitable effort will no longer be the same.

In the past, the losing coach at the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho's annual golf tournament has had to sing the rival school's fight song.

In 2010 BYU Coach Bronco Mendenhall said, "It's the most fun I've had in golfing in my life. The only reason to show up is what this cause is for."

CEO Deen Vertteli says it has made this chapter tops in the nation for fundraising. "It's been phenomenal in the ability to help patients," she said.

Vertteli says one in eight Americans has some form of kidney disease, and 100,000 people are waiting for life saving organ transplant. Twenty-four years ago she came up with the idea to have then-U coach Jim Fossil and BYU coach LaVell Edwards come together for the golf tournament fundraiser.

"We knew that if we started this out by saying, ‘BYU has five teams already, and the U has seven teams. BYU fans, are you going to let that happen?' That was the whole key in making this a success," she said.

Food Drive Results
2010
  • 535,049 pounds of food
  • $144,894 in cash donations
2011
  • 616,398 pounds of food
  • $153,792 in cash donations

That same competitive approach led to a rivalry food drive between the U and BYU for almost 20 years. It has traditionally been held in the same week as the rivalry football game in November. University of Utah Director of Alumni Relations John Fackler says just last year, they raised a combined 616,000 pounds of food and $153,000.

"Whoever wins Saturday gets bragging rights for a year. A food drive, that provides hope to people, and much needed food," he said.

But this year, BYU is not competing against the U to collect food. They say with the uncertainty surrounding the rivalry game, and the inability to get such a large student-run effort done in September, they will hold a combined food drive with UVU in November instead, giving to Community Action Services and Food Bank serving Utah County's needs.

"We will have to be creative, but we still feel we can reach our goals and do as well as in the past," said Curtis Isaak, alumni services coordinator for BYU.

Fackler says he's concerned that will lead to less giving.


If you say, 'Help the food bank,' they'll pull out a couple dollars. If you say, 'Help us beat BYU,' they'll pull out a five, ten, 20 dollar bill.

–John Fackler


"If you say, ‘Help the food bank,' they'll pull out a couple dollars. If you say, ‘Help us beat BYU,' they'll pull out a five, ten, 20 dollar bill, whatever it takes," he said.

Fackler is still figuring out the U of U's new approach.

"It's just going to be difficult without someone to play against," he said.

But it's not all competition between the two schools. They are collaborating in several academic areas, such as:

  • Autism research
    As part of the Utah Autism Research Project, two BYU faculty conduct research on neuroimaging and brain development. They work collaboratively with a doctor at the U of U and University of Wisconsin to analyze brain imaging data. (More on the research here)

  1. Research into premature births
    A new study suggests that more than 80 percent of pre-term births can be spotted in advance with a blood test taken during the second trimester of a pregnancy. The director of the chemistry portion of the research is at BYU; the lead author of the study is from the U of U. (More on the research here)
  2. Cyberinfrastructure water modeling
    A team of Utah (BYU and U of U) and Wyoming researchers received a $6 million, three-year award to develop a better understanding of the interconnectivity of natural and human water resources systems. (More on the project here)
  3. Social work training
    Two U of U social work faculty are mentoring the director of field education for social work at BYU in navigating a social work field training rotation for students at the Salt Lake City VA Center. (More on the collaboration here)
  4. Entrepreneurial inventions
    The U sponsors an entrepreneurial competition which is open to students statewide. Last year BYU won the competition and $40,000 grand prize with an invention that shuts off a stove when something starts to burn. (More on the competition here) These are things both schools hope can continue, regardless of what happens on the gridiron.

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Mary Richards

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