At Utah, enthusiasm, stability and a formula for success in the Pac-12

There is an alternative history where the Utah Utes never joined the Pac-12.

Joining the Pac

It’s been 10 years since CU decided to leave behind the Big 12 in favor of the Pac-12. This series examines what has happened since, as the Pac-12 has struggled to maintain national relevance, the Buffs football program has floundered and the school has watched its former Big 12 peers pass it by in terms of revenue and resources.

Part I: Where is CU 10 years later?

Part II: How lagging Pac-12 revenue affects CU

Part III: Recruiting and the California gold rush, coming Monday

Part IV: Culture and rivals in the Pac-12, coming Tuesday

Part V: What the future holds for CU, coming Wednesday

In that history, the Longhorn Network never happens. Texas and Oklahoma leave the Big 12 for the Pac-10, bringing Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Colorado and one of Texas A&M or Baylor along with them. And Utah is stuck as a big fish in the Mountain West pond — good enough to go toe-to-toe with the big boys, but never quite on equal footing.

Luckily for the Utes, that history never came to pass.

Texas stayed right where it was, as did most of the other Big 12 satellites in its orbit, and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott was forced to go with his second choice to pair with Colorado to make 12 — its old RMAC rival to the west.

“Let’s be honest,” former Utah athletic director Chris Hill said during a recent phone interview, “the stars lined up perfectly for us.”

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Indeed, of all the schools that found new homes during the last significant period of conference realignment 10 years ago, there’s few that have improved their situation more than the Utes.

In contrast to Colorado, which made a relatively lateral move from one BCS conference to another, Utah “jumped the Grand Canyon” from the Mountain West to the Pac-12, instantly ratcheting up its national profile while aligning itself with the West Coast’s premier academic institutions. The enthusiasm for the move both in the community and on campus was immediate and dramatic, according to Hill, who served as Utah’s AD from 1987 to 2018.

“Now it’s Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle (in the Pac-12) as opposed to Albuquerque, Fort Collins and Laramie (in the Mountain West),” Hill said. “It was just a gigantic positive for us… as big as it could get.

“There was no handicap like there was in the Mountain West. We’d start a 100-meter dash and we were 10 meters behind before we started. Now we could look every player in the eye and say, ‘Hey, we can compete for a national championship and not have to get lucky.’”

The Utes’ experience as a Mountain West program, forced to compete with fewer resources, positioned it well for success in the Pac-12.

Prioritizing postseason appearances over conferences titles — the school removed league championship flags at all of its venues — Hill said the Utes initially put most of their resources behind football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, volleyball and …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports

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