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How Conference Realignment Has Impacted Utah, BYU Over Past 10 Years

Jun 11, 2020, 3:53 PM
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The month of June marks the 10-year anniversary of conference realignment that shook the college landscape particularly in the state of Utah.

The University of Utah accepted an invitation to the Pac-10 which became the Pac-10 while BYU declared their college football independence.

KSLSports.com did a cross podcast with the Crimson Corner (Utah Utes) and Cougar Tracks (BYU Cougars) to dive into the last 10 years since the college landscape realigned. You can listen to the full podcast episode, below.

16-Team Super-Conference Rumors

There was a point in the process of Utah joining the Pac-12 that it was possible that the Utes wouldn’t get an invite because the Pac-10 wanted to expand to 16 teams which was something that was being kicked around with other conferences. Rumors surfaced that the “power” conferences were going to consist of 16 teams. The Pac-10 was looking to absorb teams from the Big 12 including Texas, Oklahoma and others. If that were to happen, Utah would not have received an invite from the Pac-10.

But, Colorado accepted an invitation to leave the Big 12 and join the Pac-10. With new commissioner Larry Scott wanting to add two teams, that gave Utah the golden opportunity to get into the conference and that’s what happened.

On the other side, BYU hit some road bumps when they were attempting to join the Big-12. Mainly due to being a private and religion-based institution that doesn’t play on Sunday’s.

What We Have Learned From Last 10-Years Since Realignment

What’s been obvious as to the benefits of being in a power-five conference for Utah is being able to recruit players that they would not normally be able to recruit if they were still in the Mountain West Conference. Prospects these days want the exposure on television while playing good teams every week. For the most part, Utah has checked all of those boxes. Especially with their rise in the conference, Utah signed their most talented recruiting class in 2020.

Part of that is due to  the state of the art facility that Utah opened in 2013. The 150,000-square foot, $32 million building has been the flashy toy for the Utes. Through the Pac-12 era, Utah has shown in recent years that they can compete with the best in the conference on the football field.

Harper mentioned that the Big-12 didn’t really want another private school since they already had Baylor. Once the Big 12 wasn’t interested, BYU started to research independence. They didn’t go independent because they were scrambling after Utah left for Pac-12.

What Each Program Needs To Improve

On the Utah side, they need to remain consistent with their coaching staff, particularly with their offensive coordinator. Utah would keep the same play-caller for no more than two seasons before a change was made. It seems as though that problem is solved with the addition of Andy Ludwig in 2019.

While the scheduling for BYU has improved as they have been able to bring big programs into LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, they need to start getting wins consistently and winning games that they are supposed to win.

Where Utah/BYU Football Is Trending

It’s clear that Utah football is trending in the right direction. But, how steep is the trend? It’s not where it needs to be. With two straight seasons of appearing in the Pac-12 Championship game, Utah hasn’t been able to finish the job and claim the conference crown.

BYU is slightly trending upward. The talent is getting better under head coach Kalani Sitake. The 22 starters are not as good as the talent on the BYU teams towards the end of the Mountain West era. Their entire roster collectively is better than the Mountain West days.

Will The BYU/Utah Rivalry Continue?

Harper posed the question to me about the rivalry continuing through this next decade or is Utah going to move on from the Cougars. The rivalry will be taking a two-year break in 2022 and 2023 when they battle Florida in a home-and-home series.

I don’t think the rivalry will stop but Utah might not look at BYU competitively like they did when Utah first entered the Pac-12. Utah has won nine straight games over the Cougars but keeping the rivalry intact while the Utes face other really good quality opponents in non-conference is ideal.

Harper thinks that it will continue as well but if Tom Holmoe decides to retire or step away during this next decade, that would all depend on the new Athletic Director.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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