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Economic impact of Utes' move is simple: More money

SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah president Michael K. Young expressed the economic impact of his school joining the Pac-10 Conference beginning in 2011 with three simple words: "More is better."

While the Utes have gained national recognition for their athletic accomplishments as members of the Mountain West Conference — and the financial limitations that come with it — all that is about to change.

"We take great pride in the fact that we have been able to do as much as we have with less," Young said. "We have been able to compete with the bigger schools with the bigger budgets. Money doesn't make your programs, but I guess you could say more is better."

No one at the university knows, or at least is willing to share, the exact numbers of what types of revenue will be coming Utah's way. And the true financial impact for the entire university, along with its athletic department, won't be known for several years. But there isn't any denying that many budgets are going to change — and for the better.

"I can't really tell you right now because I would have to imagine our fan base is going to grow, our contributions are going to grow, and we will probably renegotiate some of our marketing situations, our different contracts," said Utah athletics director Chris Hill. "We will know more about the economics as the next couple years unfold.

"So much of it depends on the future of the Pac-10 TV contracts. We don't know what that is going to be."

The current contract with the conference expires following the 2011-12 season, and negotiations are under way for a new deal.

"There are projections that Larry (Scott, Pac-10 commissioner) and I have talked about, but there is no signed deal, so that will determine quite a bit," Hill said.

One thing that was revealed is when Utah joins the conference in 2011, it will not be an immediate equal-share member. But that was not a drawback or concern when deciding to join.

"I feel good about it," Hill said. "The first year we are in there, they (Pac-10) are in their old TV contract, so we won't earn the same revenue; we aren't going to get their shares.

"To be honest, and maybe I'm naive, but it just makes sense to look at the big picture," Hill added. "I don't want to go in their the first year taking money out of there — we come in and they get less? So the second year in, we get some money, a share out of their shares. And then it goes up one more step to 100 percent."

It won't be until the third year of membership that all the benefits of a more lucrative deal will kick in, but it is immediate that other benefits are beginning, and not just for the athletic department.

"All the evidences point to being in a regular exposure with these type of schools will only help when it comes to all the other things that go on into our university," Young said. "Being on the athletic fields with these type of schools will only help in the academics and research and all the other things. It will give us more exposure, more of a reputation, and it certainly will have a trickle-down effect throughout the university."

A greater sense of pride, more exposure — and, of course, more money — all are going to be impacted because of Utah's move to the Pac-10.

"I can't tell you how many faculty and community people that their heartbeat is different today. It feels really good, and I can't size it up. It is not about where we have been, it is about where we are going," Hill concluded.

e-mail: mblack@desnews.com