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University of Utah: what a country

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If the University of Utah's athletic success continues, it might want to consider forming a country. It could be called the United Republic of the University of Utah and have its own flag, red with a drum and feather. The national anthem could be "Utah Man."

There would be only one law: that the country be an athletic factory, sort of like Bulgaria, minus the steroids.

Keeping a president might be tough, seeing how some of its top citizens keep leaving. Urban Meyer left the football program to run "Gator Country." Rick Majerus left for health reasons, or maybe in search of the perfect clam linguini.

Meanwhile, its athletes are leaving, too. Steve Savoy and Alex Smith are entering the NFL draft. It's a foregone conclusion Australian Andrew Bogut will be playing in the NBA next year. That's how it goes when your teams do well.

That doesn't mean successful people wouldn't be around to run the place. Athletic director Chris Hill is still here, having built Utah into a respected overall sports program. Greg Marsden, architect of the nationally renowned gymnastics team, and noted women's basketball coach Elaine Elliott remain, too.

Still, it's usually a bigger story when people are leaving than when they're staying. The story of the moment is whether the departing Bogut and Smith will be the top picks in their respective sports. Granted, it's a long shot.

But top picks have to come from somewhere.

Why not have them come from the same zip code?

If history is an indication, the odds on a Smith-Bogut sweep are long. Nonexistent, in fact. In the NFL and NBA history, there has never been a year in which the top draft picks came from the same school.

Considering the success some schools have enjoyed in the two revenue sports, that's slightly surprising. Ohio State, for instance, has put out enough pro athletes to fill its own football stadium but never had twin No. 1 picks. Nor has Notre Dame, Penn State or Florida State. Even schools that consistently field powerful programs in both sports, such as UCLA, Florida, Michigan, Texas and Louisiana State, have failed to pull off the elusive double-whammy.

As for the Utes, some mock drafts have Smith going as low as 22nd (about.com). Then there's ESPN's Mel Kiper, who started speculation by predicting Smith will go No. 1 overall. In between are projections of him being selected at No. 8 (The Sporting News), No. 10 (NFLreport.com) and No. 3 (NFLdraftcountdown.com).

Wherever he's picked, he'll be a good story, especially if he has time to work on his doctorate (he's already part way through his master's program). That way, on Sundays in autumn, the commentators can refer to him as Dr. Alex, or simply "Doc." Clever, huh? The viewing public would love it. And the public will love him.

How many people can explain the Physiocratic economics, as well as the pro right X-zoom 999 H-Fly — and still manage to keep it humble?

For the record, there has never been a school that supplied a No. 1 pick in one of the aforementioned sports and a No. 2 pick in the other, either.

Occasionally a university will come fairly close, its athletes passing as ships in the night. For example, Notre Dame's Mike McCoy was the No. 2 pick in the 1970 NFL draft. A little more than a year later, Austin Carr was the NBA's top pick.

Similarly, the NFL's No. 2 pick in 1975 was Maryland's Randy White; in 1976, John Lucas of Maryland became the NBA's No. 1 selection.

And in 1981, North Carolina's Lawrence Taylor was the NFL's No. 2 draft pick; the next year, the L.A. Lakers selected UNC's James Worthy No. 1.

So maybe it is time for something unprecedented to happen. Utah has as good a chance as anyone this year. If not, as they say in the Land of Bogut, no worries. The aforementioned six draft picks didn't pull off the double-whammy, but they did play a combined 74 years in their chosen professions. And they made a warehouse-full of money.

Bogut and Smith should do fine, too. When it comes to market value, they're in a good place.

You might even say they're in their own country.

E-mail: rock@desnews.com