When I first heard of Utah Valley University, the school actually went by the name of Utah Technical College at Provo.
It didn’t even get to be the only UTC.
Then it was Utah Valley Community College, then Utah Valley State College, and finally, in 2008, it became Utah Valley University. Its mission (among others): to make a name for itself.
The school has always aimed high in athletics. Mike Jacobsen, the former athletics director, made it clear that he felt newspaper and TV coverage didn’t give the school its due. Dick Hunsaker made nice strides with the men’s basketball program. Mark Pope took it from there. Now Pope is the coach at BYU.
UVU always seemed to chafe a bit at being what many consider “BYU Lite."
That’s not likely to change soon.
Aside from being in Utah County, and having had players who had been at BYU, it was the coaching thing. Pope was an assistant at BYU before going to UVU and back to BYU. Now Mark Madsen is the new coach, after being a finalist for the BYU job.
Madsen, like Pope, is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a former NBA player who ended up in Utah County.
I would be surprised if Madsen doesn’t do well at UVU. Pope left him a strong program. Madsen, who has NBA coaching experience, will make the NCAA Tournament, if you ask me. The Wolverines finished second in the WAC regular season the last two years and won over 20 games both times.
Considering the connections, though, it seems likely UVU will have to live with its “junior BYU” status for a while. The good news for the Wolverines is that — thanks to Gonzaga’s dominance in the WCC — they might be closer to making the NCAA Tournament than BYU. That would be the biggest step UVU could take in order to make its own name.