Since becoming the head football coach at the University of Utah last winter, Ron McBride has made it clear that he will do things differently than his predecessors. As advertised, he will make at least one big change during next month's fall football practice: the Utes will move to Price, 125 miles away from home, for the final seven days of two-a-day practices.
"The only thing that could keep us from doing this is the drought down there," says McBride, who's in Colorado Springs this weekend for the annual Western Athletic Conference Media Day. "We want to make sure they're able to water the fields."If all goes according to plan, the Utes, who open practice in Salt Lake City Aug. 11, will practice in Price from Aug. 18 to Aug. 25 - during what McBride calls "the meat of our two-a-days." The Utes will use dormitory, cafeteria and training facilities at the College of Eastern Utah, which has dropped its football program.
"We want to do something different, something that's never been done here in the past," says McBride. "This will help us come together as a team. We'll be in an environment where no one else is around. We'll all be together - players, coaches, trainers, doctors. No one goes home."
Certainly it is a break in tradition. The Utes have always trained on their campus. No other team in the WAC leaves its home town to practice elsewhere. Both Arizona and Wisconsin, however, practiced away from home while McBride was an assistant coach at those schools. Arizona and Arizona State regularly hold their fall practices out of town.
"You don't want to be necessarily in a nice place," says McBride. "You're there for business. You want few distractions."
Certainly Price (population: 9,000) meets those qualifications. The Utes will stay in dormitories, which lack both television and air conditioning. What will the Utes do during their free time?
"There's not going to be any free time," says McBride. "Most of the time they'll be asleep.
To find the right training camp, the Utes dispatched Assistant Athletic Director Ned Alger, a native of Price, to check the facilities in Price. Alger obliged, right down to personally sampling the food.
"It fits their needs real well," says Alger. "They have all the facilities right there. They (people in Price) are real excited about them coming. They have all those facilities, and they aren't being used, and it will bring in some revenue."
"We were looking for a facility that could house our team and provide us with good food," says McBride. "They happened to have a cook there with lots of experience who understands what we need. Plus, they have a good facility there and no football team."
But for a week next month, Price will once again have a team, if only temporarily.