Photo via Pam Davis

Broncos and Cougars: Rivals?

The Boise State Broncos last played the Idaho Vandals on November 12, 2010. The final score of that game (52-12) is indicative of the direction that rivalry series was headed.

The Broncos had won 12 in a row with that win in 2010. The governor’s trophy was introduced in 2001 as a “traveling” trophy to be awarded to the winner of the rivalry, but has never left the capital city. After playing the Vandals annually for 40 years, the Broncos left and have not looked back.

The ending of the Broncos-Vandals matchup has left a hole in Bronco Nation.

While other teams enjoy their rivalry weeks, Broncos fans are left scratching their heads as to who “counts” as their rivals.

This week, Boise State suits up against the Brigham Young Cougars. This matchup has sparked debate as to whether the Cougars can officially fill the void the Vandals left.

What Makes a Rivalry?

Does a fancy name or trophy constitute a rivalry?

The Broncos have the battle for the “Milk Can” against the Fresno State. The Bulldogs are serious contenders for that official rival spot.

But, just making up a name and giving it a strange trophy doesn’t just make a rivalry happen, just ask Bob Diaco, former head coach for the UConn Huskies. Diaco seemingly threw together his makeshift rivalry against UCF with the announcement of “The Civil ConFLiCT”. That “rivalry” was seriously refuted and was left with the trophy sitting forgotten in the rain.

There isn’t a fancy name for the BSU-BYU matchup…at least not yet.

Does there have to be long history for a rivalry to be declared?

The Broncos had a 40 year history with the Vandals. Ohio State and Michigan have been playing “The Game” for 144 years. Alabama and Auburn have been competing in the “Iron Bowl” for 82 years.

But, a storied history doesn’t prevent a competitive, heated environment for players and fans. Look at UCF and USF. Their “War on I-4” has only been going for 9 years. It’s always their most anticipated game of the year.

Boise State has played Brigham Young a total of 8 times. Saturday’s game will be the 9th time they’ve squared up against each other. With another five more years on their schedule, is that enough time to develop and foster a rivalry?

Does common recruiting grounds & fighting for the future of the team create a rivalry?

As the only FBS team in Idaho, when talking about defending Boise State territory, it really comes down to recruiting territory.

Michigan head coach, Jim Harbaugh, created quite a stir when he started reaching out from the typical Ohio football hotbed into the south for Wolverine recruiting. He got a lot of pushback from the SEC, including from Alabama head coach, Nick Saban. But, Alabama and Michigan don’t really have a rivalry.

The Broncos and the Cougars have been fighting over the same potential players for a while now. Currently benched BYU quarterback, Tanner Mangum, played for Eagle High School in Eagle, Idaho. Currently starting BYU quarterback, Zach Wilson, had a long time commitment to Boise State, but cut ties and de-committed at the last second, only to sign up to be a Cougar. There’s definitely some bad blood there.

Do fan engagement levels indicate a rivalry?

After all, the smack talk and gloating continues on after the final whistle blows.

The poisoning of Auburn’s oak trees by an Alabama fan certainly displays the extreme level of action that can take place between rivals.

The BSU-BYU games certainly turn out a big crowd. The most attended game on the blue turf was a game against the Cougars. Bronco Nation turned out in a crowd of 36,864. The 3rd most attended game at home was also against BYU, where Bronco fans showed up 36,742 strong. Not bad, considering Albertsons Stadium technically only has seating for 36,387.

So, does this Saturday’s game count as a rivalry? Bryan Harsin says “I don’t know.” Andy Avalos says yes. BYU linebacker Sione Takitaki says it is.  He also says that former and current head coaches, Bronco Mendenhall and Kalani Sitake, “emphasize it.” The BYU “Goals” board in the Cougars’ football facility lists Boise State in the category “Win the Rivalries.”

So is it a rivalry? You decide.


About Taylor Hart

Taylor Hart
Taylor was born and raised in the Treasure Valley. He developed a strong love for anything Broncos related. Even though he doesn't currently reside in the Boise area any more, his wardrobe mainly consists of blue and orange which he wears proudly and often, much to his wife's chagrin.

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