Utah to the PAC-10 not the no brainer we all think

The Mountain West Conference will be having its meetings in June and much of the speculation in the region and nationally is that they will formally invite Boise St.. However the underlying issue will be whether or not Utah will bolt for the Pac-10. Many media outlets believe that it is a no brainer but this is not the no-brainer we all think. The Pac-10 could have expanded many times in the 90’s but did not. The one thing we can glean from history is that the Pac-10 will not expand for the sake of expanding. It will expand when it benefits them. Many media-types have Colorado going to the Pac-10 which makes some sense, but Utah? How does Utah benefit the Pac-10; Utah has competitive teams, nice facilities and the television market of Salt Lake City which could be seen as selling points but………

Okay, one could argue Utah is the second program in the state of Utah behind BYU. The majority of people in the state belong to the LDS church which means that there could be some ties to BYU. The question has to be asked with all things being equal if BYU is on TV and Utah is on TV who gets most of the television sets?

It is important to understand that these schools enjoy a relationship that is unlike any in the country, they dislike each other on the field but are very connected off the field. Some might argue that BYU leads Utah around by the nose. Yes, Utah is a public institution and cannot because things like separation of church and state, outwardly uphold LDS doctrine or craft how it operates using the Book of Mormon but one can’t reasonably believe that administrators who will be signing off on the move, who have received an undergraduate or a post graduate degree from BYU, or have family and more important donors who have done so, aren’t going to take that into consideration when making this choice standing on the platform of what is good for the university and its supporters.

Do we believe that when the “U” goes in front of the legislature to ask for funds, that the legislature will willingly give the “U” money.

The next part of this puzzle we should look at, does the PAC-10 really want Utah, we know they do not want BYU, the liberal thinking universities (Cal, Stanford, Oregon and UCLA) have made no secret about their reservations to admitting BYU into the Pac-10. Does the Pac-10 see the market of Salt Lake City as an adequate trade off for what they may have to deal with when it comes to Utah becoming a member. I would say probably not. You have some of the most liberal universities (public or private) breaking bread with one of the more conservative public universities in the nation. It may balance the table (“Hippies” vs. “Holy folks”) but…..

The Pac-10 secretly was hoping that UNLV would have been a power in the MWC by now and would have done something on the academic side to boost its overall school profile, if you took Utah’s program athletically and academically and it was UNLV, the Running Rebels would have run to the PAC-10 (Yes, UNLV has had its share of NCAA scandals but no more than let us say Arizona St). The reality is for now the Pac-10 could do what the Big-10 did with Penn St., admit Colorado, and then hope for a program to emerge in the Western US that it could pair with Colorado, (emerge does not only mean wins and losses it means attendance and overall money that program (football) can bring in and the social and academic component that the university can bring to the table.)

The Pac-10 has 7 members that belong to the Association of American Universities which is a prestigious group, for the record Colorado is a member. While we all who speculate look at television markets and win-loss records, the presidents of the Pac-10 schools will look at things like freshman SAT scores and research money when signing off on this move.

With the money floating around in college athletics it is possible that the PAC-10 members who will be signing off on this may want a program in Rockies that fits academically and socially (are you listening fans of New Mexico, Colorado St. and UNLV) If you want your program to move into a BCS conference, because the MWC will not be a BCS conference when it is all said and done, you may just need to become so attractive that either the Pac-10 or Big-12 feels it needs you as an untapped source of revenue.

If any of the three programs mentioned sells out their football season game in and game out then they become extremely attractive to the conferences in the region and if it rises up academically then maybe fans of any of the three programs mentioned are gearing up for a college football slate of USC, UCLA, Oregon etc. but that only happens if the three aspects of the school come together, academics, athletics and fans (donors, boosters, and fans).