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Monson: BYU, Utah could land in best possible positions

Published September 26, 2011 10:35 pm

Amid realignments, both schools could land in best positions.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Shift happens.

Sometimes, it doesn't happen.

And this whole conference-shifting-non-shifting thing could work out in the best interests of Utah and BYU, after all, and, most importantly, for their fans.

The Utes are happy the Pac-12 stayed as is, feeling fortunate to be a part of the opportunity-, prestige- and money-grab that is the Conference of Champions. But they also want, as athletic director Chris Hill has repeatedly pointed out, to be a competitive force in the league. Chances for that would have diminished to a significant degree had Texas and Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State joined the party.

Question: How long would it have taken Utah to win a league title in football if it had to beat Oregon, Stanford, USC, Texas and Oklahoma every season?

Answer: Forever.

On the one hand, that 16-team configuration, with those particular teams, would have been too much of a good thing, and too much of an impossible thing. On the other, that 16-team configuration likely would have also forced the league to break into the dreaded pod system. If the conference had done that, it would have ruptured the rivalries Utah so hoped to build as it entered the league before the rivalries even had a chance to sprout.

The Pac-12 — as is — is better.

Although tough enough, the Utes actually have a chance to do some damage in the smaller group. On account of USC being ineligible, the Utes have a real shot in the South Division, if they handle their business with proper attention. And if they do that, it's a one-time deal in the league championship game against Oregon or Stanford … and if we've learned anything about the Utes, coached as they are by Kyle Whittingham, they often do a fairly decent job preparing for a one-time deal, such as in the Fiesta Bowl and the Sugar Bowl.

Not exactly the way to bet in their first season in the Pac-12, but … a lot more feasible than if they had to in the future get by Oklahoma and Texas, too.

The fact that the Pac-12 presidents wanted those schools, but did not want the headaches that Texas insisted on bringing with it — by way of its TV network — helped the Utes in their journey for competitive relevance. An aside: Larry Scott's comments about the conference staying status quo being in the "best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans" were a bit disingenuous. If it had been deemed that Texas would have brought enough additional money, been worth the hassle, it's reasonable to believe that, suddenly, the best interests of student-athletes and fans would have been compromised for the best interests of the bank accounts of the member institutions.

Luckily for Utah, that did not happen.

Luckily, perhaps, for BYU, as well.

Independence might be celebrated by the Cougars — with a spin and a happy face — in theory. But in the reality of an uncertain landscape in college football, it's an ever-more risky condition. A tie to a stabilized Big 12 would be much better.

If Texas and Oklahoma now stay and Texas really means what its administrators are saying about being open to leveling out the league shares of television revenue — those administrators say they also want to keep their Longhorn Network — it could actually be good news for BYU, which also has its own network. It could open the door for the Cougars to come aboard.

Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds acknowledged that BYU is being seriously considered as a Big 12 replacement when Texas A&M leaves for the SEC. The Cougars should jump at that chance, as soon as guarantees are in place that the Longhorns and Sooners will remain for an extended period. Such a move would protect BYU from being left out in the event superconferences emerge in the years ahead.

Truth is, BYU should move all of its sports to the higher level of competition in the Big 12. Sources at BYU say there is a hesitation on the part of the school's Board of Trustees, made up of LDS Church leaders, to leave the schools in the West Coast Conference hanging by pulling those sports out of the league for a bigger opportunity elsewhere. All of those WCC schools, like BYU, are affiliated with religions.

But doing so really is in the best interests of not just BYU, but its student-athletes and fans.

Which brings us full circle here.

Utah is now in a situation where it can reap the great economic benefits of the Pac-12, give its athletes the chance to compete at a lofty level, without precluding them from reasonable chances at titles, and deliver for its fans terrific competition, week in, week out.

If the Cougars get the invite to the Big 12, and they accept, all of the same applies to them.

Imagine on any given Saturday, the Utes playing host to USC at Rice-Eccles and BYU playing host to Oklahoma at LaVell's Place. And similar competitions going on, not just through the football season, but in all sports year-round.

Talk about best interests, based on the events of this week, they could be on the table, all around, in a big, big way.

Gordon Monson hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at gmonson@sltrib.com. Twitter: @GordonMonson.






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