I told him I went to the University of Utah.
Mark said it was no problem. He, in fact, went to BYU but didn’t graduate from the Marriott School of Business.
I reiterated the fact that I went to the University of Utah.
Again, he said no problem. The Geneva chapter rules state that only half of the membership has to be BYU alumni. If I joined, it would just be him and me, so we’d be covered.
I asked if there were any membership dues, and he said they left that up to the individual chapters, and that the Geneva chapter had voted not to have them.
My wife went to BYU, and (it’s taken me years to admit this) my children most likely will, too. But I wanted to know why I should possibly join an alumni group of a school I never went to.
His response was networking (always good), which would happen when the university flew the president (him) and one other officer (potentially, me) to Frankfurt this May for an alumni meeting. His only request was that I help build up the alumni chapter in Geneva.
Before I go on, I should explain something to those who didn’t have the privilege of growing up the Valley of the Great Salt Lake: The relationship between Utah and BYU isn’t so much a rivalry as it is a jihad.
Kids learn to wear red or blue during game week while they’re in elementary. It strains friendships. And it’s no great exaggeration to say that during game weeks, most Mormon congregations along the Wasatch Front are divided between those wearing red dresses and ties (Utah) and those wearing blue (BYU).
When I was about five, my grandma bought a BYU shirt for me. I had no idea what the letters stood for, but the little cougar mascot looked cool, and I liked the color blue. But my fully-grown and otherwise very nurturing parents were Utah Utes and encouraged me to use it as a finger-painting smock.
Joining a BYU alumni group as a former University of Utah Ute is kind of like Larry Bird putting on a Lakers uniform. Or Dick Cheney being Facebook friends with Hugo Chavez. It’s just not done.
But this May, I am being flown to Frankfurt, Germany and put up in a hotel as an official officer of the Geneva Chapter of the BYU Marriot School of Business Alumni.
So why am I doing this?
I think the biggest reason is because the whole idea terrifies me. I’m afraid of my BYU friends making predictable comments about how I’ve seen the light. I’m afraid of my Utah friends accusing me of being a traitor even though I’m sure they don’t really care. And I’m afraid of having to explain to other chapter officers in Frankfurt why I never lived in Helaman Halls, saw an edited movie at the Wilkinson Center, or had lunch at the Cougar Eat.
That’s my motivation: Fear, curiosity, and a trip to Frankfurt. And for that, I’m more than happy to help build up the Geneva chapter of my rival school.
More to come…