Utah Appears To Be Taking A Calm Approach To Conference Realignment
SALT LAKE CITY- It’s been a little over a week since the news came out that USC and UCLA are planning to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024, and what a week it has been. Emotions have been high and low, understandably so. “News” on what is actually happening has been hard to come by. An unsurprising revelation considering schools and conferences are in varying stages of “weighing their options”.
— Michelle Bodkin (@BodkinKSLsports) June 30, 2022
Only one thing feels clear in the current madness, the level of panic felt at the beginning of the week seems much more subdued at the end of it, especially for Utah. It’s easy to understand why fans, coaches, players and even us media people want answers. It is unsettling not “knowing” and it is ok to admit that. However, the landscape doesn’t appear to be moving as quickly as anyone once thought, and so why should Utah (or any school for that matter) jump before it needs to? It appears after everyone’s initial knee-jerk reaction to conference realignment, that Utah is taking the calm approach.
Lets Make One Thing Clear First
Utah being “calm” in a high stress situation does not mean they are “doing nothing” but rather taking time to investigate and information gather before making a really big decision regarding the school’s future. Utah has come a long way in 25-30 years, heck, they’ve come a long way in just the last ten years. Unfortunately, life handed them a bounce that does put that promising future growth on shaky ground to no fault of their own. It happens.
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The Utes have done everything right up to this point. Now University President Taylor Randall and Athletic Director Mark Harlan are faced with a crossroads that not only could challenge or improve Utah’s continued trajectory as a growing power in athletics and academics, but cement their legacies at the university as either positive or negative. That’s not a decision anyone is going to take lightly and so taking a step back to do some due diligence isn’t a terrible idea for Utah. There is a lot at stake after all.
Use The Blueprint
The cast of characters may be different, but Utah has a history of preparing itself for seismic moves down the road. While Randall and Harlan were not part of the driving force that made sure the Utes would be ready when and if the Pac-12 came calling, it’s not like they don’t have a good blueprint to draw from. Former University President Michael Young and former Athletic Director Chris Hill spent years making sure the Utes would be ready by shoring up deficiencies, collecting data, networking, etc. in an effort to be as prepared as possible when moves had to be made.
It’s true, Randall and Harlan don’t have quite the luxury of time that Young and Hill had. This process is going to be much more condensed for them, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be wise with the time they have. Come up with selling points, talk to anyone and everyone you can, give options time to materialize and fully form, and focus on controlling what you can control.
Some Timelines To Watch
Obviously, we know the Pac-12 as we know it will not be a thing by 2024. We also know the Pac-12 (10) opened up media rights negotiations with some kind of alignment with the ACC for the next 30 days with ESPN and FOX.
There have been no solid reports of how early negotiations are going, which isn’t shocking since the Pac-12 (10) opened up negotiations on Tuesday. Something to consider with the potential Pac-12(10)/ACC alignment is that building a solid business plan takes time and while we might get bits and pieces of what it will look like, it will probably be a while before we know the whole vision.
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) July 5, 2022
There are a lot of things going on in the background that are going to stay in the background until they are ready. Will it ultimately be good enough to keep the remaining Pac-12 (10) intact? We’ll see. What I think can be said early on is that whatever was presented to the remaining schools by Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff was at least good enough to keep people interested in staying for 30 days which isn’t nothing.
However, the biggest timeline of all for the Utes that really hasn’t been discussed much might be the 2022 football season. Before the latest hoopla of conference realignment befell upon us, people were talking about how big the 2022 football season would be for the Utes. Well, depending on where everyone is at on their decision making processes, that season may have just been elevated in importance. If Utah can do what many were projecting them to do- crash the College Football Playoff, it could factor into where they go and who they are attractive to going forward. Again, it is important to state there is most likely a lot going on behind the scenes that we just don’t know about.
So Wait, What About The Decision?
My honest answer is, I don’t know when that decision will come and frankly, I don’t think anyone at Utah wants it to be known either, which is fine. Remember, the most recent decisions that have been made (Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, and USC and UCLA to the Big Ten) were not widely reported on until they pretty much happened. I think it’s safe to say most of the rest of conference realignment is probably going to happen in a similar fashion. We are going to know when they want us to know.
Obviously, you can expect a decision before 2024 (duh). However, if that’s too unspecific for you, the two dates I would personally pay attention to are about 30 days from now for a first reveal of what a Pac-12 (10)/ACC merger could look like, which also aligns pretty well with Pac-12 Media Day, and the immediate offseason after the 2022 football season provided Utah lives up to expectations.
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My limited understanding of Utah’s position in conference realignment is that they ideally want to stay with the Pac-12 (10). This means they have to give Kliavkoff time to work his magic, and his brand of magic admittedly, takes some time. Good deals don’t happen overnight, and take a lot of negotiating and renegotiating. It might work, and it might not work. Utah has some time, not a lot of time, but some time to let Kliavkoff do his thing, while also looking into other scenarios and options just in case.
The fact of the matter is, as much as conference realignment feels like a sprint, it’s actually more of a marathon that takes patience and pacing in order to come out on top. The Utes have proven affective at this once before, it’s time we give them the time to try and do it again.
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