“No one in the country has had the enormous gift that we’ve had for 29 years” said Deen Vetterli, the CEO. Ms. Vetterli started the National Kidney Foundation of Utah & Idaho in 1987 at the insistence of her Sister Glenna Shapiro (the Then CEO of the Arizona Kidney Foundation). In 1986 Senator Jake Garn gave his kidney to his daughter Susan, and then flew into space to orbit the earth in a spaceship with just one kidney. It was auspicious timing as the science of living kidney donation was just becoming mainstream. After Senator Garn agreed to Chair the Board of Directors for Utah, Ms. Vetteri began thinking of ways to bring more highly visible, highly respected members of the community on Board. Then one day, while walking through the grocery store the idea struck her. She’d call LaVell Edwards (BYU’s then head coach of a winning football program and the cradle of two Heinemann Trophy Winners) to see what he thought of an idea for a “Rivalry For Charity Golf Tournament.” Ms. Vetterli’s Husband, Dick Vetterli (Professor of the Political Science Department at BYU, and former BYU football quarterback) had the idea to ask the loser of the round of golf, sing the winning coaches fight song. LaVell Edwards (for whom they eventually named the BYU Football Stadium) thought it was brilliant. That was 29 years ago. The rivalry started with LaVell Edwards and Ron McBride – who have been coming together to the Golf Tournament for years, until Coach Edwards passed away in 2017. “No other Rivalry, no other State, No other NKF affiliate has enjoyed the long-standing support of the coaches like we’ve had. Kidney Patients in Utah don’t even understand what this drawn out ‘rivalry’ has meant to their cause.” Through the years, as the coaches, and conferences have changed so had the flavor and pitch of the rivalry has shifted to something that looks more like camaraderie and good sportsmanship. Though BYU and U of U have different goals, both coaches Sitake and Whittingham are undoubtedly two of Utah’s greatest humanitarians, offering their high status, celebrated positions and the public’s love of football, to draw awareness to the plight of Utah & Idaho patients with kidney disease and those who still need a kidney transplant. The National Kidney Foundation of Utah & Idaho, throughout the years has relied upon the good will of Utah’s big hearted, high status champions. We Thank Coach Sitake and Coach Whittingham for taking time out of their incredibly busy June Schedules to join us each year to play golf, raise money and bring awareness to our mission. More people die of kidney disease than breast or prostate cancer, one in eight Americans is affected by kidney disease, (at the time of this writing) 20 people die each awaiting a kidney transplant. Please, consider becoming an organ donor. But in the meantime, donate a car to Kidney Kars, or support other efforts like the Kidney Walk or Kidney Golf Tournament to help lighten the burden and improve the quality of life for Utah dialysis and transplant patients.
For 29 years, the coaching staffs at BYU and Utah have come together in June to support the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho for a charity golf event raising thousands of dollars annually for the publicly funded nonprofit organization.
But with new NCAA legislation extending the recruiting period into June and both schools offering seven-on-seven camps deep into the summer, both BYU coach Kalani Sitake and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham had plenty of conflicts.
Neither one of them wanted to miss the event Monday, though — Sitake even got a speeding ticket as he drove from Provo to Hidden Valley County Club in Sandy to arrive in time for the annual luncheon.
“Even coaches get speeding tickets,” Sitake quipped.
Monday’s luncheon was appointment viewing for Whittingham, too. Even without the obligation of the losing coach singing the opposing school’s fight song.
“June is a lot more busy for coaches than it used to be, with the satellite camps and more official visits in June,” he said. “It’s a lot different than it once was, but I just have to make time for this.”
The event began with legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards and has brought together every coach in the rivalry since, including Utah’s Ron McBride — still seated at the center table, across from Sitake and next to former BYU and NFL tight end Chad Lewis.
To Sitake’s right sat Whittingham, laughing like a buddy-cop duo of former coaching colleagues who played at the same school and coached together at a rival institution.
In those 29 years, the group has raised funds to help the roughly 468,000 Americans with kidney disease who are receiving dialysis treatment or the 1,316 people from Utah and Idaho currently awaiting a life-saving organ transplant.
“It’s the cause that matters, and I’m honored to be affiliated with it for so many years,” Whittingham said, “as well as coach McBride before that, and I think even coach (Jim) Fassel before him. It does a lot of good for the National Kidney Foundation, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
While getting ready for a season where the Utes look to build off the only successful postseason in Pac-12 football, and as the Cougars try to turn things around from last year’s disastrous 4-9 campaign, it was good to take time away from the grind of 24/7 college football.
The rest will come soon enough.
“You go through these parts where you know it’s around the corner,” Sitake said. “The hardest part is vacation; you need to take time off. But if everything is done correctly, I think we will be ready. I’ll spend some time with the family in July, but right now, I’m pleased with how hard everyone is working — especially the players.”
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