Will Utah go to the Pac-10?

It’s official, the Pac-10 has done what everyone expected them to do and invited Utah to become their 12th member. Everyone saw this coming. But what everyone else sees coming next might not be the case. You should see the headline at ESPN right now, Pac-10 invites Utah. Source: Utes will accept. Oh yeah? Is this the same “source” that told ESPN the move to the Pac-10 by Texas and others was “imminent” on Monday? And they turned out to stay in the Big 12? ESPN better start naming sources, or their credibility will get shot down.

Well my “source” tells me that it isn’t in Utah’s best interest to join the Pac-10. Here’s why. Could they get more money? Maybe. They certainly could get a bigger payout by virtue of being members of the Pac-10. Could it help their recruiting? Perhaps. It would certainly help to be in a conference with an automatic bid.

Now ask yourself this: would Utah hold any clout in the new Pac-12? None. If their TV contract were stacked like the Big 12 and the bigger schools got the bigger payout, would they be dead last on the list? You bet. You see there is a very large problem here. Only half the people who consider themselves Utah fans do so because of Utah’s BCS busting. Put them in a BCS conference and they instantly lose relevance. Second, BYU fans outnumber Utah fans about 2:1 in the state of Utah. They really aren’t pulling a big market.

Trust me, I live here. People across the state will tune in to watch BYU play Boise State. They aren’t going to care to watch Utah get handled by USC year in and year out. Like I said, people only followed Utah because of their BCS busting potential. Do you think that many people really care about TCU, Boise State or Utah? Of course not! We all just cheered for them so that they could bust the BCS!

Take them out of that category and no one cares. So Utah, run to the Pac-12. No one will care about you anymore. You will have no market penetration in the state. You will have no relevance in the conference. You will be the whipping boy. You’re only getting invited so that the new Pac-12 can make boatloads of money from you and give you none of it. Now they can have their treasured championship game. Meanwhile, you will have no say in day to day conference operations in any way.

Feel free to go from being one of the most influential members of a conference to the least. You have to wonder- with Boise State, isn’t the MWC going to become an auto lock for the BCS? That means more prestige and more money for your conference. And the MWC would be no small conference. They utterly control the entire state of Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico. They control San Diego. They control Las Vegas. They have some big markets. The conference can do very well. And Utah can be in a great position when they do.

Jump over to the Pac-12 and you will be nothing Utah. The country will forget you. The anti-BCS crowd will forget you. You will fade to irrelevance. See how that helps your recruiting. Think of it from the perspective of a high school senior. Do you want to play for a team that is perennially at the bottom of a conference or the top of a conference? And Utah has had first round draft picks in the NFL, so prospects are good you will be seen just fine as things are now.

So I know Utah will likely accept the invitation, I know everyone is expecting it. But I wouldn’t be surprised in the least bit if they come to their senses and stay put. It’s definitely in their best interest to keep right where they are and build up a strong conference around them. Plus, all the MWC has to do is pick up SMU and UTEP, or Nevada and Fresno State, or Tulsa and Hawaii, or any combination to get to 12 schools. Once they do, they get a championship game, and guess where one of the bigger markets and stadiums in the conference is? Salt Lake City, pretty good spot for a championship game if you ask me. Not if you jump to the Pac-10 it’s not.

We’ll see what happens, but I think it is in Utah’s best interest to stay right where they are and convince the MWC to add 2 more schools strategically to get to 12. I think they have to go for SMU, UTEP, Nevada, Fresno State, Tulsa, Hawaii, Utah State, Idaho, or New Mexico State. Probably not those last three. But you never know. If Utah stays they have sway in those conference decisions. Hopefully they stay put for their sake.