Scheduling Pitch: Imagine If Utah Played Pitt, Michigan Next Year

Jan 4, 2022, 10:31 AM
Devin Lloyd - Utah Utes vs. Oregon - Pac-12 Championship...
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff stands next to MVP linebacker Devin Lloyd #0 and wide receiver Britain Covey #18 of the Utah Utes as they celebrate the team's 38-10 victory over the Oregon Ducks to win the Pac-12 Conference championship game at Allegiant Stadium on December 3, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – When it was announced that the ACC, Pac-12, and Big Ten were going to form “The Alliance” it was seen as a joke by some because the details were sparse. It seemed reactionary to the SEC grabbing Oklahoma and Texas.

Plans have slowly started to come into place and Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff knows a thing or two about being a showman with his experience as the former President of Sports and Entertainment for the MGM resorts.

While he doesn’t have any college athletics experience he knows how to put on a show and an outsider with a different perspective, especially when it comes to scheduling non-conference college football games which are not all that practical.

He is right. Scheduling games a decade down the road has momentary excitement until one starts to think about how far out that game is then it can be a bit depressing. Plus, who knows if either team will be any good by the time the game happens.

“When it comes to going from nine to eight conference games … to be able to play one game against one of the other Alliance partners, we’re ready to do that now,” Kliavkoff said. “I’m not saying the Big Ten should do that now. That’s their decision. They have to make the decision about when that’s right for them to do that. But the moment after they can get there, we’re playing 12 games the following season.”

The Alliance has a plan to change all of that and the vision is to have some sort of conference challenge like college basketball has every year. What this will do is pit teams from the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC against each other based on order of finish from the year prior.

For example, with Utah, Michigan, and Pitt winning their respective conferences, those teams would play each other, and then the second place, third place, and so on down the line. This would fill out the non-conference schedule with a pair of games, and with the Pac-12 more than likely going down to eight league games would keep open a pair of spots. For Utah, that means they could continue to schedule BYU on a regular basis.

This would provide a lot more excitement with more big-time opponents on a team’s schedules and a lot of new teams that fans don’t get to see unless it is a bowl game. The Utes don’t regularly play Big Ten or ACC teams. Utah has played just four teams ever from the ACC and two of those were in bowl games and only once as a member of the Pac-12.

As for the Big Ten, the Utes have a 10-10 record against the mostly Midwestern-based conference. Seeing a Big Ten team on the schedule regularly would be great for the program and its fans. With the Utes being in contention for Pac-12 titles over the past half-decade, they would be matched up against some big brand schools.

Pac-12 Needs More Eyeballs

This scheduling move would help the Pac-12 by getting new people to check out their teams who normally would have little interest in the West Coast league. Now, when a Pac-12 team travels to play teams across the country like Miami, Boston College, Penn State, Illinois, and many other schools in the Central and Eastern time zone, new people will be able to get familiar with those schools.

Unrivaled’s Scott Mitchell is fully behind this move as it will help the Pac-12 become a more national brand.

“It’s not only that you’re playing better teams, but it’s also you’re getting more exposure,” Mitchell said. “So the best teams in your conference are actually getting the best TV exposure, and that helps you to build your brand. You’re not going to build your brand on Colorado.”

Voters also would get to see more of the Pac-12 if the games are not kicking off once the sun has set on the East Coast. There is always the perception of an “East Coast bias” when it comes to schools West of the Rocky Mountains.

The other half of Unrivaled, Alex Kirry, thinks that more games out East would vastly improve the visibility of the Pac-12 and help them be in the mind of the College Football Playoff voters.

“Whatever the College Football playoff committee looks like or whatever the expansion looks like for the College football playoffs, you’re on that radar even more so,” Kirry said. “Because even a beginning of the year lost to Michigan and if that’s a good Michigan team, everybody saw it on TV and that makes a difference.”

The NFL is great at exposure and can make a TV special with a snap of its finger.  Its schedules are on a rotating basis for who each team will play at home and the road and the division games are set up as well. Those cross-division games are based on the order of finish yet despite knowing who all 17 opponents are and where the games are played, the league blows out its coverage with an NFL schedule release day during the offseason.

The Pac-12 could do the same thing once the college football season ends in mid-January and have a television special to announce when these games against other conferences are played. It has made zero sense for the SEC and Big 12 to release future schedules in the middle of the current college football season.

If Kliavkoff wants to make a splash and get the Pac-12 out in the forefront it needs to get behind this scheduling idea and make it the biggest thing out there as a huge television event.

Anything to get the Pac-12 in front of more people should be done.

Tune into Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 3-7 p .m. on 1280 The Zone and 97.5 FM or subscribe to the podcast. Also, download the all-new KSL Sports app on iOS or Android.

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Scheduling Pitch: Imagine If Utah Played Pitt, Michigan Next Year