Tom Hackett’s Love Letter To BYU Faithful
PROVO, Utah – For me personally, coming to Utah was difficult. Not only did I have to leave my family on the other side of the world to pursue a dream I had only had for 12 months, but I also had to learn a new culture that was vastly different from where I was coming from.
However, I quickly learned that I needed to get a better understanding of the BYU vs. Utah rivalry.
After many conversations with people and trying to understand the rivalry to the best of my ability, I quickly gained a hatred for the Boys in Blue.
First, Why I’m… Well, ‘Okay’… With BYU
Before we get into all the hate, now would be a good time for me to bring up a few of the things I love about BYU, considering it’s Valentine’s Day.
Throughout this article you will read and understand my admiration for Kalani Sitake.
I would be lying if I told you that I hated every BYU fan. There are great people out there that bleed blue and I appreciate them for that. The royal blue color (not the navy, I hate the navy) is soft and gentle to my eyes. What a treat it is to turn the television on and see the Cougs wearing that royal blue.
But lastly, and most importantly, who doesn’t love a nice, long, soft cougar tail. A rich blend of maple and donut. The thought of it makes my mouth moist.
Why I Hated BYU
My hatred grew when I saw the stuff both fans and players were posting on social media. It grew even larger when we played against them.
For example, BYU fans would shout and scream at the Utah players on the sideline in the hopes of getting under their skin. This is something every teams fanbase does, yet for some reason the BYU fans would get under my skin more so than the other teams… without using explicit content?
How does that work?
I was once known for my comments towards BYU fans during the “pep rally” of the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl, where I called them (BYU fans and the program) a word I will not repeat in this article.
I want you to know, the main reason behind those comments were due to my distain for former head coach Bronco Mendenhall and the culture he fostered at BYU, close friends to me would mention the self-righteous attitude of the BYU players and coaches who hide behind the BYU brand who claim to be living more faithfully.
I did not know Bronco on a personal level, and my comments were one that suggested I was young, dumb and misguided. It was the certain stories I had heard, his demeanor and the way he spoke to the media that gave me a sour taste in my mouth. The fact he was the head coach at a team I already didn’t like also played its role, I am sure.
It is worth noting, that when I got back to the team hotel there was not a single individual that told me what I did was wrong. No words were spoken, but many smiles and laughs were had. I can’t say any more without getting myself in trouble.
Kalani Sitaki Changed The Rivalry
Those feelings, however, quickly changed when I heard Kalani Sitake was taking over the head coaching duties for BYU. I will do my best to try and explain the type of person Kalani is throughout this article, but I apologize to everyone who knows him if I am unable to do the man justice.
Kalani is a family man. He considers family to be his immediate family members (his wife, kids, etc.) but he also considers his players, both past and present, to be family members as well.
He demands excellence in all fields, whether it be on the football field or in the classroom or out in public with friends. He wants everyone around him, including himself, to succeed in life.
He is a players’ coach.
I love the man. I really do. I respect him, I look up to him, and I still lean on him for guidance occasionally.
I have visited Coach Sitake numerous times down at the BYU football facility, and I will continue to visit with him to see how he is doing and if there is anyway I can help him. Coach Sitake has even given me BYU merchandise before – a gesture I greatly appreciated yet decided to share with my crazy BYU neighbors (I don’t think he knows that, so lets keep that one between us).
Coach Sitake has changed the rivalry in ways I did not see possible just a couple of years ago. His relationship with Coach Whittingham has obviously impacted the change. They play golf together throughout the summer months and are constantly talking to one and other…something I know Coach Whittingham and Coach Mendenhall did not do.
Utah players today do not look at BYU in the same manner as they once did. It’s completely changed, and you can argue a number of things as to why you think it has changed: Utah joining the Pac-12, BYU going independent, etc. etc. The biggest factor for me is the change in head coach, Kalani Sitake is still beloved at the University of Utah despite also being the face of BYU football. That is something special, and should hopefully help both parties understand the respect and appreciation coach Sitake has.
I have no problem with saying that I want BYU to win every game, except for when they play Utah. Don’t be fooled, I bleed red, but the recent love I have for BYU is solely based around my respect and admiration for Coach Sitake.
Oh, and no – I do not apologize to the BYU faithful for using such hurtful words back in 2015. I meant it, but I would never say it today if asked to speak at a similar event. I can’t, after all, be as soft as a Cougar Tail.
LISTEN: Tom and former Ute kicker Andy Phillips talk about changes to the BYU/Utah rivalry since their playing days on their podcast, Special Forces Gang.