In the run-up to the 2022 school football season, who round right here knew that probably the most compelling theater can be hypothesis over which convention Utah can be a member of in the seasons forward.
That enterprise was supposedly all tucked away greater than a decade in the past, when Larry Scott invited the Utes into the Pac-12, however then subsequently helped wreck that league’s future with a sequence of dangerous management selections, combined with the last word hammer shot of USC and UCLA bolting for greater bucks elsewhere.
Where does that depart Utah now?
It leaves the Utes in hazard. It leaves them uncovered. It leaves them desperately attempting to navigate icy waters with bergs drifting throughout them.
What craft can they rely on to maintain them afloat? Do they keep aboard a ship with a gash in its hull or do they board a lifeboat and hope for the Carpathia to come alongside hours later and pull them from the chilly, darkish sea?
Decisions, selections, the faculty football life is stuffed with them.
The primary drawback for the Utes has nothing to do with the state or high quality of their program. They are, it is, revered nationally, recognized for fielding powerful, gifted groups which might be properly coached and troublesome to defeat. The college itself is additionally extremely esteemed.
It is centered, as a substitute, on probably the most basic of dangerous relational pratfalls: Trust.
Or, extra particularly, a lack of belief.
In the greediest interval of an already grasping endeavor, Utah has nobody to belief however itself, or so it appears. The purpose being, that is what each different outstanding school football college is doing — looking for its personal greatest pursuits. If these greatest pursuits torpedo the most effective pursuits of different colleges then … sucks for them.
So the Utes have to be cautious right here, in any other case they may very well be betrayed, left alone, unnoticed in that merciless, chilly ocean, which is to say, unnoticed of the massive cash.
And if they’re, none of their extra lucky former companions will cry for them. The Trojans do not care. The Bruins do not care. The Huskies do not care. The Ducks do not care.
If Utah chooses to stick with what believers need to name a united Pac-10 — let’s all snicker at that blind idealism — and then a few extra valued league colleges soar for extra money some other place, the place does that put them? Scrambling to be part of the Mountain West?
Should Utah align with Washington and Oregon and Arizona and Arizona State and Stanford and Cal and hope for good friendship, hope that the Pac can in some way change USC and UCLA, both by including colleges like San Diego State and Fresno State or by standing pat and extending extra hope for a first rate TV cope with ESPN, or failing that, another outfit, as they’re?
Already there are reviews, after feedback made by Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren indicating that that hungry and well-positioned league could but increase once more, that Washington, Oregon, Stanford and Cal are being focused. If they are surely, the Utes can sing a requiem for his or her former convention.
That stated, ought to Utah go forward and belief the Pac’s capability or willingness to keep collectively or to raid, say, the Big 12 and discover new companions there?
Or will it be the opposite manner round, the place the Big 12 cherry-picks a few of the opposite groups from the Pac, leaving no matter stays to lie lifeless in the street, rotting in the solar?
What if Oregon and Washington have been to hitch up with the Big 12?
Would the Utes belief these colleges as dependable companions, it doesn’t matter what they are saying in public or non-public?
no hell no
These are tenuous, harmful and troublesome instances for Utah.
It’s each college for itself, and the Utes are totally conscious, contemplating they bailed out of a far less-lucrative league once they left the MWC for the Pac-12. They know what they’re coping with throughout them as a result of they know themselves. They know that they, too, would abandon all others to get into the Big Ten, which may very well be paying every of its members some $100 million yearly in TV cash.
That’s simply good enterprise even when it’s dangerous for these left behind.
And Utah doesn’t need to be left behind.
It should keenly observe what is going on on, who’s mendacity, who’s liable to lie, and then choose a rescue boat to climb aboard. It has to discern whether or not the Pac will take a chew out of the Big 12 or whether or not the Big 12 will succeed in swallowing no matter it needs out of the Pac.
Meanwhile, it’s maintaining a shut eye on what the financials are popping out of the Pac’s present negotiations on a future TV cope with ESPN.
This is all the place the drama will get scorching, not only for Utah directors, but in addition amongst reporters attempting to uncover what’s actually occurring, amongst social media warriors and followers arguing over which league — the Pac or the Big 12 — is greatest suited to not simply thrive, however survive.
Who do the networks favor? That’s the actual query. Which league has higher prospects for drawing rankings? With a few tweaks right here and there, the place does the higher ardour lie? Where can the cash be made?
Statistics are cited to the left, claiming the Pac colleges are superior, and to the suitable, saying when apples are in contrast to apples, oranges to oranges, the Big 12 outdistances the Pac. Truth is, these numbers might be leaned any manner anybody needs.
Some of the Big 12 markets are smaller in inhabitants than the Pac’s, however the high quality of ball performed, the care issue in the stands and in the TV dens tilts the equation the opposite manner. Viewership stats might be weighed and weighted by which video games have been on which networks at which instances and each manipulated and/or interpreted from there.
Some BYU followers, nonetheless torqued by the Utes leaving the Cougars behind once they have been invited into the Pac-12 and now emboldened by BYU’s attachment to the Big 12, seem to be relishing the chance to inform Utah how their new convention is extra steady, extra rocksteady, extra engaging, extra worthwhile than the remainder of the Pac.
And some Utah followers are holding out that the Pac is preferable to these backwater colleges in the Big 12, and that the devouring might and ought to feast on the different finish of the desk.
Although mildly entertaining, none of that extraneous debate issues. To reiterate, this is what it does: What the networks suppose.
They are the undisputed kingmakers of faculty football, and they’ve the means and the inclination to discover the reality in sorting by which colleges, which leagues are most precious. Who motivated the Big Ten to add USC and UCLA? Yeah, Fox did.
Money flowed in each instructions.
Where can the Utes take advantage of it?
And, in figuring that out, can they make themselves fascinating to the suitable league with the suitable TV deal?
The college craves the cash. What Utah followers care about is much more fundamental — profitable.
As a lot because the Ute program has superior in current years by stable group, good teaching, sturdy assist, it is, as Kyle Whittingham at all times says, recruiting that has added the horsepower to the engine.
Without a sturdy dwelling league to be a a part of, to assist lure in the expertise, that pipeline is certain to clog.
Mixed metaphors or not, discovering that correct convention and grabbing maintain of it is Utah’s Job 1. It’s not overly dramatic to say that may decide whether or not the Utes keep afloat or slip beneath the waves to much less related depths. Which boat will rescue them, which vessel can they ship for and board, which ships’ captains ought to they belief?
Who will reply their SOS?