BYU’s entrance into the Big 12 Conference in 2023 comes with a casualty: the Cougars’ long-running football series with instate rival Utah State.
Thursday, both schools announced within minutes of each other that their game scheduled for Sept. 29 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo will be the last in the near future.
The rivals were contracted to meet four times between 2023 and 2026, but those games have been canceled. BYU invoked a clause in the four-game contract — which was signed Oct. 5, 2020, according to a copy obtained by the Deseret News — that contains language allowing the contract to be voided due to a change in conference affiliation.
Obviously, the cancellations mean that BYU expects the Big 12 to move to a nine-game conference schedule in 2023 when the Cougars, Central Florida, Houston and Cincinnati join the league. It appears that BYU’s three nonconference games in 2023 will now be against Tennessee, Southern Utah and Arkansas. All of the other games have been canceled.
“As we prepare to enter Big 12 membership, we’ve had to make many adjustments to nonconference games on our future schedules,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said in a statement released Thursday morning. “We are grateful to Utah State for being a willing partner in scheduling games throughout the years, especially the last decade as we’ve navigated independence. While we don’t have the Aggies scheduled beyond 2022 at this point, we will continue to work together to play this in-state game again in the future.”
Utah State’s statement was lengthier, and noted that USU and BYU have met 90 times, the first one coming in 1922.
BYU leads the series 50-37-3, and kept the Old Wagon Wheel with a 34-20 win over the Aggies in Logan last October.
“Utah State and BYU have a long-standing history of annual competition on the football field and our goal is to continue the rivalry,” USU athletic director John Hartwell said. “While we are disappointed to see the series go away for now, we are committed to working with BYU to find scheduling opportunities in the future.”
BYU has won 21 of the last 26 matchups, but the rivalry has been more even recently, with USU having won three of the last seven meetings.
According to the contract signed by Hartwell and Holmoe in October 2020, the school that defaults on the contract must pay the other school $1 million for each canceled contest, unless the cancellation is due to conditions “entirely beyond the control of the defaulting party such as war, government restriction, pandemic, NCAA restrictions, natural disaster, weather, airline strike, act of terrorism, or act of God.”
However, language just under those justifications for cancellations states that the defaulting party is also not liable for damages if it “joins a conference, whether currently existing or newly created, that is different from its current conference or independent affiliation, and that includes at least four schools that currently belong to a Power 5 conference.”
Similar language has been included in many other contracts BYU has entered into since it went independent in football in 2011.