Opinion: Colorado Is Off To Big 12, What’s Next For Utah?

Jul 28, 2023, 12:53 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – With Colorado off to the Big 12 in 2024 now being official, a lot of questions remain for the Pac-9 including local team, Utah.

What is next for the Utes and the Pac-12?

In this moment, that question feels loaded and very hard to answer. Utah, and their remaining Pac-12 constituents have a lot of decisions they need to make that quite frankly are based off of what feel like a lot of hypotheticals. Everyone also probably needs to start making those decisions a little more quickly, because, as we’ve seen this week, time maybe isn’t as on their side as they once thought.

Looking At Utah’s Options From My Perspective

Utah and the Pac-12 (at least from the outside looking in) are in a tough spot and will have to make some decisions based on what feels like limited options.

Again, it’s important to emphasize here that I’m not in those meeting rooms and I don’t have all of the information they have so there are undoubtedly things I am completely missing that will turn up at later dates.

As things currently stand, this is how I see it:

  • Utah can stay with the remaining Pac-12 and hope everyone left is truly committed to the cause.
  • Utah can follow Colorado to the Big 12.

Some Things Utah Is Likely Weighing

One of the more interesting aspects of this whole conference realignment saga is the idea we are heading to a P2 and that it’s only a matter of time before the Big Ten and maybe even the SEC adds more teams.

There has been a lot of debate about who those teams will ultimately be and frankly, I really couldn’t begin to tell you who does and doesn’t get picked up when and if that shoe drops.

What I feel confident in is this. Utah has talked to people who matter in these spaces (as have a lot of others because that is what you do in the sports industry) and there is some curiosity/interest/respect there.

Do those things equate to an eventual invite? Only the decision makers and people holding the discussions know how serious or not serious these conversations are.

Utah’s leadership needs to weigh that for themselves and undoubtedly is as we speak.

Are the power players talking to Utah and others to simply be polite? Or is there a legitimate chance this happens down the road if we play our cards right?

Whatever Utah decides on that front will lead to these other questions they will need to do their best to answer:

  • How committed is everyone else in the remaining Pac-12 to staying?
  • Assuming Utah feels good on the first point and thinks inclusion into the P2 is in their future- who gives us the best chance of achieving that goal?
  • Things like contract length, Grant of Rights, buyouts, and exposure among many other things will also need to be considered moving forward.
  • There also needs to be some thought put into the “what ifs” if Utah doesn’t think there is a path to the P2 someday.

Is The Pac-12 Still Really A Viable Option?

It is if no one else leaves, leadership can put together a media deal that satisfies everyone and can bolster the remaining roster with some new faces through expansion.

That, however, is going to require leadership to roll up their sleeves and get serious. If I’m being frank however, from an outside perspective, the optics across the leadership board haven’t been great on that front for the Pac-12.

Could this week’s events be the wake-up call everyone needed to get into gear and wrap this up? Sure. I’d like to believe people can learn, grow, and use a failure to be more productive and come out stronger.

We just honestly haven’t seen it as of yet with the Pac-12 after other mistakes which casts doubt, fair or not. Whatever the case though, that work, and effort better have started the minute Colorado made it clear they were out.


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What The Pac-12 Has Going For It.

Putting the Pac-12’s leadership (or lack thereof depending on how you feel) aside, the conference does still have some things going for it.

Yes, the Conference of Champions lost three schools in the span of a year. They haven’t however, lost any of their heavy lifters. At least not yet.

While USC and UCLA may have been the conference’s biggest brands, they weren’t the ones winning football championships and they weren’t really the ones in Playoff discussions either. Colorado? Well, they were never particularly close to sniffing any of those things on the regular at all. Truth hurts.

The teams who have been winning the conference and either in the Playoffs or in discussion to be in the Playoffs has been Oregon, Washington, and Utah over the last 13 years. Facts are facts, it’s easy enough to look up.

There are also some remaining Pac-12 members who have some rising potential in Oregon State and Arizona, along ASU if they can get out of their own way. Washington State and Stanford have had their moments too.

Add in a couple of new schools (SDSU and SMU seem to be the popular choices) to flesh things out and you still have the potential for a very good conference.

However, that requires action right now to get it done. Is the remaining Pac-12 leadership capable of rallying to make it happen?

What The Big 12 Has Going For It.

Say it with me now. Stability and direction. 

You can love or hate the Big 12 and the reasons why they are stable and seem to know their direction forward all you want, but there is no denying in the here and now it’s the truth. The Pac-12, at least as far as I or anyone else on the outside can see, doesn’t currently have that.

Could that narrative change tomorrow? Six months from now? A year? Five years? Absolutely. Nothing is guaranteed forever. That doesn’t change however, the perception of the here and now which seems to indicate the Big 12 is a surer thing.

From Utah’s standpoint there are a few aspects of this conference that could be beneficial.

For starts, the Utes could go in and likely be in the top half of the conference from the jump. The Big 12 will be in the process of figuring out who their new, consistent top dogs are and like it or not, Utah could easily factor into that.

The Utes could also be one part of the Big 12’s new biggest rivalry game with BYU once Oklahoma and Texas head to the SEC. In fact, the Utes could potentially be part of the Big 12’s second biggest rivalry game with TCU. (Those who lived through the Mountain West era know what’s up here.)

There is potential here for a cool, fun product and return to some old rivalries.

Does Utah see it that way? I don’t know. Last I checked this wasn’t the direction they were heading, but things looked considerably different then.

Have they changed enough now? It would appear so from the outside, but again, I’m not operating with all the information Utah and the remaining Pac-12 members have. Time will tell.

Concluding This Round Of Realignment.

We’ve seen over the past two years we are all trapped in a bonkers college football simulation that is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. Things can flip on a moment’s notice, and I don’t know that we’ve seen the end of it yet.

What are we barreling toward is anyone’s guess.

With that said, looking at the current state of college athletics, the safest assumption of all is to assume you know nothing because that is how realignment seems to be playing out these days.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on TwitterInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Opinion: Colorado Is Off To Big 12, What’s Next For Utah?