Harlan Talks Utah Football Scheduling In Big 12

Aug 23, 2023, 2:05 PM


Head coach Kyle Whittingham of the Utah Utes looks on against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the first half in the 2023 Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 02, 2023 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah’s move to the Big 12 will have an impact across all sports with the excitement of playing new teams and traveling to new cities. While there are fun and new things that come along with joining a new conference, there are some downsides and concerns that come along as well.

Scheduling is a big deal, especially for college football programs.

In 2024, the Utes have two non-conference games scheduled against Big 12 members with Baylor and BYU coming to Salt Lake City. This is going to mean some creativity within the Big 12 offices and Utah to decide what to do with these non-conference games turned conference games.

Mark Harlan On Scheduling Non-Conference Games

Utah Athletics director Mark Harlan talked about a few options on the table. He joined Unrivaled and mentioned that the Bears game could be considered a non-conference game despite the two teams now being in the same conference.

“There are things that are a little more in front of us like football scheduling that you have to literally start tackling now,” Harlan said. “We are in a unique situation where we have two Big 12 teams on our schedule next year with Baylor and BYU. We have to find solutions there because they both are league games. However, we are looking at Baylor possibly being a non-conference game because of where we are in the calendar. It is darn near impossible to find two opponents that quickly.”

It is not unprecedented for teams in the same league to play as non-conference opponents. In 2021, Wake Forest and North Carolina scheduled a non-conference game despite being in the ACC.

The two had played nearly every year, but when the ACC expanded to 14 teams the Tar Heels and Demon Deacons were put in opposite divisions and prior to 2020 had not played since 2015. This is not new but it is an interesting wrinkle in Utah’s schedule.

It is positive to hear that the biggest rivalry game in the new Big 12 between Utah and BYU will be preserved as a conference game. That will give more juice to the fan-favorite rivalry and perhaps have conference title implications on the line.

The date definitely should be changed from Sept.7 and with the marketing guru that Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark is, this game should be played late in the season and likely the final game of the year as it was played for decades when the two were in the Mountain West and the WAC.

The Utes need to go out and find just one more non-league game to fill out its schedule. Expect it to be a home game and a good chance against a non-power conference opponent in September of 2024.

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Harlan Talks Utah Football Scheduling In Big 12