Inflammatory tweet targets BYU

Screenshot courtesy of @byubitterfan Colby Patterson
Screenshot courtesy of @byubitterfan

Screenshot courtesy of @byubitterfan

The U’s rivalry with BYU doesn’t end when football season does.

On Mar. 20, the U’s official Twitter account tweeted a congratulatory remark to Oregon for beating BYU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The tweet was followed by “good-natured ribbing” directed at BYU.

The tweet from the U’s account read: “Last time #byu beat #UofU—it’s been years right? #littlebrother.”

Andrew Thompson, new media specialist for the U, declined to say who wrote the tweet.

Both BYU fans and Ute supporters asked for the tweet to be taken down, calling it embarrassing.

“I view BYU as a premier institution and a wonderful neighbor, and I think the rivalry makes each institution stronger and better,” said Andrew Thompson, the U’s new media specialist. “There is a mutual respect between fans on both sides that you don’t often find in other rivalries, which truly makes it special.”

He added that “good-natured ribbing” is essential to keeping the rivalry alive.

AP sports reporter John Coon tweeted in response to the U’s original message: “@uutah shouldn’t be tweeting out inflammatory stuff about BYU. Bad standard of professionalism for an institution of higher education.”

Robby Jackson, a sophomore in communication, said he was initially critical of the tweet. Jackson, who reports on Utah basketball for the Utes Sport Report on Scout.com, originally tweeted that the account was embarrassing but said he overreacted.

“I thought those tweets had crossed the line, but looking back, it was out of fun, and nothing malicious was said,” Jackson said. “Next time if whoever is running the account wants to do it again, I would refrain from mentioning specific people in the tweets and not use “#littlebrother” or similar hashtags. Playful rivalry talk has its place, and what the account tweeted out wasn’t all that bad.”

A similar incident occurred in Nov. 2010 when BYU beat Utah State University and a message flashed on BYU’s Marriott Center scoreboard, reading “Utah State, enjoy the loss” and referred to the Aggies as “little brother.”

BYU issued an official apology following the incident calling the message “inappropriate” and stating the message “does not reflect the sentiment of BYU Athletics or the university.”

Utah’s Twitter account has since taken down the tweet containing the “little brother” hashtag and tweeted: “We apologize to #byu for congratulating Oregon on their win tonight. #BYU is a wonderful institution and even better neighbor. #GoCougs!”

The U’s account has since congratulated the other Pac-12 schools in their success in the NCAA Tournament.

“We share content that is pertinent, like deadlines, news, events and activities. We also share content that can be viewed as light-hearted and fun,” Thompson said of the U’s social media accounts. “We’ve found that this balance of content keeps the campus community engaged so that when we need to share really important information, there is a greater reach to do so.”

r.miller@chronicle.utah.edu