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With college football landscape in flux, what’s ahead for the Utes and the Pac-12?

Talk of Texas and OU leaving the Big 12 behind in search of greener pastures (read: the SEC) has perked the ears of college athletic programs around the country

SHARE With college football landscape in flux, what’s ahead for the Utes and the Pac-12?
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham answers questions during Pac-12 NCAA football media day July 27, 2021, in Los Angeles.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham answers questions during the Pac-12 Conference NCAA college football media day Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Los Angeles.

Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press

This article was first published as the Ute Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Wednesday night.

It’s been a decade since Utah officially joined the Pac-12 Conference. 

Certainly, that was a watershed moment for the school to be part of a Power Five league and the Utes have benefited greatly from being associated with the Pac-12.

But what about the next 10 years?

News that Texas and Oklahoma are planning to exit the Big 12 caused concern and angst throughout the rest of college football. 

During Pac-12 football media Day Tuesday, new commissioner George Kliavkoff addressed some of the issues facing the conference, including realignment. The Pac-12 has plenty of options — it could expand, it could merge with the remainder of the Big 12 or it could stand pat with 12 members. Will the Pac-12 get raided by other conferences? Will we see the rise of super conferences?

“We have a stable, highly successful and well-positioned membership with a high bar to entry. Given our investments in football and men’s basketball, our historic domination of other sports, we do not think expansion is required to continue to compete and thrive,” Kliavkoff said. “That said, the fallout from Texas and Oklahoma gives us an opportunity to once again consider expansion. We had already had significant inbound interest from many schools. We will work with our presidents and chancellors to evaluate these opportunities.”

In an uncertain time, this much is certain: change is coming. Nobody knows exactly what that change will look like. Even if the Pac-12 stays at 12, it will have to act aggressively to keep up with the rest of the power conferences. 

This is a big reason why Kliavkoff was hired last June, to help restore glory to the self-proclaimed “Conference of Champions.” 

Numbers game

3: Total votes Utah received from media members to win the Pac-12 championship.

5: Preseason first-team Pac-12 All-Conference selections for Utah.

12: Total preseason Pac-12 All-Conference honors for Ute players. 

From the archives

Amid massive changes in college football, where will the Pac-12 go from here?

Why Kyle Whittingham sees Utes being in ‘solid position’ heading into 2021 season

Extra points

Utah’s Jadon Redding named candidate for Lou Groza Award

Grace McCallum is an Olympic silver medalist

What Grace McCallum said after Team USA won silver

How MyKayla Skinner became an Olympic gymnast

Former Utah runner wins Deseret News10K

Fanalysts

Comments from Deseret News readers:

“The Pac-12 is in rough shape, maybe not as bad as the Big 12 is but still is hurting. Lack of top competition on the football field should be #1 concern ... Alabama of the 1990s would not command such a high status (thus pulling the SEC higher) as they do now and thus schools like USC, UCLA, Oregon need to put up a top 4 in the country performance year in and year out else the Pac-12 will remain in the current dire straits.  

I’d also say that the Pac-12 needs to add 2-4 more teams, and those teams need to come from Texas. The conference needs to show more than just a Cali TV audience (sure, Seattle, Phoenix and Denver are OK but Cali still rules the roost) and adding TCU (Dallas) and Houston (Houston), Baylor (Dallas), and someone like Kansas or OK State would really help things. Staying put at 12 teams will not help as things slide more toward 4 power conferences of 16 teams each. The Pac-12 needs to grab up top teams now before those schools have other choices closer to home.

I love the thought of BYU being included in the mix but I think that both they and Boise State get left out of the game of musical chairs …”

— Johnny Triumph

“How does the Pac-12 react if USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington bolt to the BiG?

It’s stuff like that idea floating around from multiple sports writers that should make the Pac-12 realize that they too could be seeing their league raided for the super conference creations. In addition to those four, they would likely grab Kansas and Iowa State going to 10 team divisions.

Let’s just say that BiG does just that. What do Stanford, AZ, AZ St, WA St, Cal, Oregon St, Utah, Colorado do?”

— SS Jarvis

Up next

Sept. 2 |TBD | Football | vs. Weber State | @Rice Eccles Stadium