Utah Tech and Southern Utah universities face off Saturday for their first football matchup since both became official members of the Western Athletic Conference, and the schools’ officials are embracing a return what had once been a historic rivalry in the state’s southwestern corner.
The two universities are bringing back the “Battle of the Ax” for Saturday’s matchup, reviving the tradition after what had been a 60-year hiatus.
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The ax, a mock weapon wrapped and decorated with the themes and colors of both schools, marks a revival of a friendly in-state rivalry that began in 1937 with an agreement between the student body presidents of what were then the Branch Agricultural College in Cedar City and Dixie Junior College in St. George.
The ax passed to the winning team in all athletic competitions between the two institutions but only lasted until 1963, when SUU gained status as a four-year college and St. George remained a junior college, according to a release from UT officials. The ax was split in two for each institution to display it on their respective campuses and waited until now as both schools changed names and classifications multiple times.
“We are really excited to restore the Battle of the Ax tradition,” SUU Student Body President McKay Pollmann said. “I am hopeful this will be a great way to get students engaged and active on both campuses, as we are constantly seeking to improve student life. This will be fun. Go T-Birds!”
The rivalry has returned this year, with SUU joining Utah Tech in the WAC. To get ready for the matchup, the schools created a new ax, helped by Vandy Creations, a St. George-based company that designed sports-themed metal works. The new ax displays the universities’ updated names and colors.
“Students are excited about our move to Division I athletics,” UT Student Body President Devon Rice said. “We like to watch teams that we know. Reviving this old Battle Ax tradition will provide a great opportunity for us as students to be passionate about the teams we’re playing.”
Saturday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m. at SUU’s Eccles Coliseum Stadium. UT gets to host the Thunderbirds on its home turf at Greater Zion Stadium on Nov. 5.
David DeMille writes about southwestern Utah for The Spectrum & Daily News, a USA TODAY Network newsroom based in St. George. Follow him at @SpectrumDeMille or contact him at email@example.com. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today.