Thursday, June 17, 2010

On Utah to the Pac 12

At the end of the movie “The Patriot,” General Cornwallis (played by Tom Wilkinson) says “Everything will change, everything has changed.” A little dramatic? Perhaps, but when Utah formally accepts an invitation to join the Pac 12 conference later today, everything will indeed change for the boys up on the hill in Salt Lake City.

If you just look at the dollar amounts Utah is looking at from TV revenue as a member of the Pac 12, you’ll realize how much things will change. Utah will go from around $1.3 million as a member of the Mountain West to $8-10 million in the Pac 12. The stadium is likely to be expanded and many of the facilities will be upgraded. Sure, anyone can throw dollar amounts out there, but the truth is, the financial impact on the school will hit so many areas, that it may even be hard to measure at this point.

As this story has developed over the last several weeks, I’m reminded of the movie Invincible, where Vince Papali’s friend is encouraging him to go try out for the Philadelphia Eagles. He says, “even if you’re down there, for one hour, you’re down there.” So too is the case for Utah and the Pac 12. It doesn’t so much matter where they fall in the PAC 12 pecking order immediately, the fact is that there is a table called the BCS, that table has a pile of cash on it, and regardless of year-in and year-out performance, Utah now has a seat. That is HUGE!
It’s no secret that Utah doesn’t exactly have a rich tradition, but over the last decade, you’ll find few non-BCS teams that have been better. The truth is, Utah got hot at the right time and recorded big wins during a pivotal shift in the college football landscape. They hit one out of the park with the hiring of Urban Meyer and he then turned the Utes into immediate contenders going 10-2 his first season and leading them to an undefeated season and a BCS bowl win the next year before bolting to Florida. From there, Kyle Whittingham was charged to keep Utah’s trajectory upward. While he struggled a little at first, he improved on his previous seasons win total each of his first few years culminating in a 13-0 unbeaten season and Sugar Bowl win over Nick Saban and Alabama. During that game Moose Johnston, one of the commentators said things like “Wow, wow, wow…” as Utah jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back. Wins such as the Sugar Bowl win and even the dominant performance over Cal in the Poinsettia bowl last year have kept the Utah in the national conversation and have made them an relevant and attractive addition to the Pac 10.
It’s hard to say how competitive Utah will be moving forward. Even though they now have a seat at the table and access to more money then ever before, I suspect they will continue to improve and be a legit contender in the PAC 12. It appears as though they will be placed in the “South” division with the likes of USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona St. and the other newcomer Colorado. That’s not the easiest road to be sure, but it will also give Utah recruiting inroads in those places that they have otherwise not had before. In the short term though, Utah is poised to begin PAC 12 play in 2011 (rumored) and will have a JR. QB in Jordan Wynn with about 16-18 starts under his belt. They have a lot of young talent in the program already, and hopefully this move will allow them an additional influx of talent as they move forward into the Pac 12.

This is a happy day for Utah fans and alumni. It ranks right up there with the two BCS bowls and the final four appearance in 1998. The sky is the limit for the University of Utah and I cannot wait to see it all unfold!


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