Facebook Twitter

Utah and BYU relied on trusting relationship to announce canceled football games, additional games before contracts were signed

Recently signed contract obtained by the Deseret News shows dates are set for 2026, 2027 and 2028 games, which were announced last September, but date for 2025 game is yet to be finalized

SHARE Utah and BYU relied on trusting relationship to announce canceled football games, additional games before contracts were signed
0830fbcutescougars.spt_cp_AG5Q0841_toned.jpg

Utah running back Zack Moss (2) runs the ball near the goal line during the Utah-BYU football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. Moss scored on the next play.

Colter Peterson, Deseret News

When news leaked the morning of Sept. 23, 2019, that the University of Utah was canceling scheduled football games with BYU in 2022 and 2023 so it could line up a home-and-home series with Florida those years, a combination of surprise, angst, relief, smugness and righteous indignation swept through the local fanbases, depending upon particular perspectives of the heated, lately one-sided, instate rivalry.

Documents obtained by the Deseret News seem to show that the leaked news caught athletic department officials at both schools off-guard as well.

“Our relationship with Utah is such that we were comfortable announcing it (sooner) than we probably wanted to. Utah needed to get it done (quickly) and we were willing to help them out.” — Duff Tittle, BYU’s associate athletic director for communications

Later that day, Utah and BYU both issued news releases confirming what was first reported by the Gainesville (Florida) Sun — that they had “agreed to take a two-year break” in the rivalry. They also “jointly announced” in the same news releases that they were adding four games to their long-running football series.

The additional games would be played in 2025, 2026, 2027 and 2028, the schools said.

If nothing else, the saga illustrates the comfortable relationship and high level of trust between the schools’ athletic directors, because they were willing to ignore protocol and make the announcement even though neither school had a signed contract in place on Sept. 23 canceling the 2022 and 2023 games and formally agreeing to the four additional games.

“Our relationship with Utah is such that we were comfortable announcing it (sooner) than we probably wanted to,” said Duff Tittle, BYU’s associate athletic director for communications. “Utah needed to get it done (quickly) and we were willing to help them out.”

The contract was finally signed Thursday; the only new information from what was announced more than three months ago is that three of the four games have confirmed dates. The date for the 2025 game at BYU is still to be determined, probably because the Cougars already have four opponents scheduled in September — Hawaii, Stanford, Minnesota and Rice — and Utah has to play all its nonconference games that month.

The remaining games will be played Sept. 19, 2026, at Utah, Sept. 18, 2027, at BYU and Sept. 9, 2028, at Utah.

Four days after the BYU-Utah announcement, and on the day Utah and Florida announced their agreement, the Deseret News submitted a public records request to the University of Utah seeking a signed copy of the contract. 

That signed copy was delivered Friday morning.

Utah football spokesperson Paul Kirk said it wasn’t completed and signed by Utah athletic director Mark Harlan and BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe until Thursday, three days after the U. provided other game contracts and some text messages requested by the Deseret News.

Kirk said only recently were dates for three of the four new games finalized, which was the primary reason for the delay. The agreement was actually drafted on Oct. 8, 2019 — 16 days after the hasty announcement — but not signed until earlier this week, the contract provided Friday showed, and BYU’s Tittle confirmed.

Kirk said there were “no issues” that snagged or delayed the agreement, other than both teams were in the middle of their seasons and busy with other matters.

In the past, as BYU has gone about the arduous task of trying to find 12 opponents per season as a college football independent, Holmoe has declined to publicly acknowledge football scheduling agreements until contracts are signed by both parties. Obviously, Utah is not the typical opponent.

“I appreciate the great working relationship we have with Mark Harlan and many others at Utah,” Holmoe said in the Sept. 23 release. “We have a responsibility to take care of the future of this great rivalry, not just in football, but across all of the sports. There may come a time in the future where we need to ask Utah to make an adjustment for us. That’s how a relationship works. Utah approached us about an opportunity they have and we agreed to work with them.”

On Monday, the university provided contracts signed on July 30, 2015 (for 2019, 2020 games), contracts signed on July 18, 2016 (for 2021, 2022 games) and contracts signed on Nov. 29, 2018 (for 2023, 2024 games). All of those agreements were announced weeks, or even months, after the contracts were signed — further evidence of the unprecedented way last September’s events unfolded.

The only electronic correspondence in regards to football scheduling between school officials provided by the U. was a text message exchange between Harlan and Holmoe last Labor Day (Sept. 2, 2019) in which Harlan asked Holmoe to meet “on Wed to talk though the scheduling matter.” Holmoe replied that he would call Tuesday to set up a meeting time and that he had to “make a change or two” and was leaving Thursday for BYU’s Sept. 7 game at Tennessee “with some donors.”