Several weeks ago our Sunday School class broke out into one of its frequent arguments between the kids that support BYU and those that support U of U. (It might actually be the kids whose parents support those schools, but I guess it’s normal for loyalty to span generations.) One of our students claimed that BYU shouldn’t even be allowed to have that name because Brigham Young founded the University of Utah and not BYU.
I did some research on his claim and thought I’d share it since we’re rapidly approaching the climax of Rivalry Week. I discovered not only that Brigham Young had founded both schools, but that they were once part of the same school: the University of Deseret.
In 1850 Brigham Young founded a school called the University of Deseret. I guess he didn’t do so well managing it because it only lasted two years before going out of business. Meanwhile other schools were being established in the territory, including a school that was built in Provo in 1862.
In 1867 the University of Deseret reopened, though I assume Brigham was no longer in charge because he was promoting his own goals to open a new school in Draper. The school in Draper didn’t pan out, but the University of Deseret did well enough to start expanding, and in 1869 it bought the Provo school and made it part of the University.
Brigham Young continued with his own goal to open a school, and in 1875 he succeeded by purchasing the Provo campus from the University of Deseret. Brigham himself (not the Church) owned the newly purchased school, and named it the Brigham Young Academy.
In 1896 (some years after Brigham’s death) the LDS Church acquired Brigham Young Academy, and in 1903 it was split into two separate schools: Brigham Young High School and Brigham Young University. Meanwhile the University of Deseret changed its name to the University of Utah in 1894 (paralleling the change in the name of the territory that was on the brink of becoming a state).
According to legend the rivalry between the two schools started at their very first sporting competition. It was a baseball game in 1895. It was a tie game and there was a brawl after it was over. The rest is history.