Jared Combs says his favorite team is Utah — and whoever is playing BYU. Everyone in his neighborhood and family can tell he’s a die-hard Utah fan by seeing his man cave full of Utah memorabilia or the giant U that shines onto his house every night. But what many people don’t know is that he once was a BYU fan.
Combs grew up in southeastern Provo and naturally was a BYU fan like everybody else in the college town. Back in the golden era of players like Steve Young and Gordon Hudson, he used to ride his bike over to Cougar Stadium and collect extra football tickets from the ushers. Sometimes he came home with a memento (that he probably still has today), like the towel Steve Young gave him on the way to the locker room.
A big-time sports fan and player his whole life, Combs also went to the BYU basketball games. “I would go stand down at the portal at the end of the game and try to catch wristbands and stuff from the players,” Combs said. This was back in the days of Devin Durrant, Danny Ainge, Tom Chambers and the triple overtime game at the Marriott Center with Utah. He says those games planted the seeds of loving the excitement and natural high that come from sporting competitions.
So what caused Combs’ shift in loyalty? The ex-Cougar fan attributes it to his friends and attending the U for school. In high school, Combs began slipping off the BYU fan train.
“That’s when I started becoming less interested in BYU as a whole and realized there’s a bigger, broader world out there,” Combs said.
When it came time for college, he applied to the University of Utah, where several of his older friends went to school. He also prepared an application for BYU, but never turned it in because he was accepted to the U, and a friend convinced him not to waste his time applying to BYU.
“And that was the end of it,” Combs said. “I went to Utah and instantly was hooked and immediately became a staunch Utah fan — where anything BYU was completely unacceptable.”
Except for his wife.
In 2001, Combs married his wife Kamille, a BYU grad and fan. At the Combs’ home, a house divided, they each have their own Alma Mater lawn chairs, different license plate frames, and two different flags for outside. According to Combs, “The rule about the flag is whoever won the football game the year before is the only flag that can fly.”
Kamille explains that the real rivalry in their house is to see where Ashley, their 10-year-old daughter, will go to school. She used to be more of a Utah fan when she was little but now is leaning more toward BYU. Her mom said it’s a no-pressure environment for her, and she can choose whichever school she wants.
Ashley said, “Utah’s a good school if you want to be a doctor, but I don’t want to be a doctor.” Her dad asked her what BYU is better for and she quickly responded, “Everything else!”
The traditional BYU–Utah football game has been in place since 1896 (except during WWII when BYU didn’t have a team). Now fans find themselves ready to savor every moment of this year’s match-up and dreading the upcoming two-year hiatus.
“BYU–Utah is such a fierce, competitive rivalry, and in the last 20 years you couldn’t ask for anything better as a fan of college football than a game that’s just a barnburner, on-the-edge-of-your-seat type game,” Combs said. “I’ll be sad honestly. I don’t know what I’ll be doing in November the next two years without the Utah–BYU game.”
As for this year’s outcome, Combs is predicting another 34–31 Utah win on a last-second play. The BYU–Utah matchup is a must win in order for Combs’ season predictions to come to pass. “I’m going to be an optimist at this point,” Combs said. “Utah’s schedule is the tenth toughest in the nation, so this year it’s pretty tough, but I’m going to say 8–4 with a decent bowl game. … There’s no margin for error.”
This season Combs said he is happy to be part of the excitement and camaraderie he feels with his fellow Ute fans.
“It’s amazing how much energy there is at games,” Combs said. “It’s all just tied to the fact that you’re Utah fans. And it’s that experience and that excitement that’s like a brotherhood, like a family in a sense — when things are going good for you and everyone’s excited. It’s that level of excitement just grows and grows.”
Whether you bleed red or blue or a bit of both, everyone can agree that there’s nothing like team pride.
Down here in Utah Valley people might call him a traitor for defecting to the other side. But here’s Combs’ question: “Why would anybody ever, when you’ve found something as majestic and glorious as Utah, why would you ever go back to BYU?”