How Utah AD Mark Harlan approaches nonconference football scheduling, and what teams are on the docket
Next season, Utah opens up at home against Weber State on Sept. 2, followed by a pair of road games at BYU (Sept. 11) and San Diego State (Sept. 18)
By playing nine Pac-12 games every year, Utah’s football program schedules three nonconference contests per season.
Of course, the 2020 campaign, severely impacted by the pandemic, saw the Utes play just five games, all against Pac-12 foes.
Utah’s upcoming nonconference games
At San Diego State
San Diego State
Next season, Utah opens up at home against Weber State on Sept. 2, followed by a pair of road games at BYU (Sept. 11) and San Diego State (Sept. 18).
“We play nine conference games, which is more than some conferences. You’ve got to figure all those are going to be battles,” athletic director Mark Harlan told the Deseret News last month. “We play BYU but some years we might take a year or two off. In general, I would like to see another premier opponent when we can that matches up and makes sense to complement that overall philosophy.”
After 2021, the Utah-BYU series will take a two-year hiatus so the Utes can play Florida of the Southeastern Conference in 2002 and 2023.
Other Power Five opponents on Utah’s nonconference schedule in future years include Baylor (2023 and 2024), Arkansas (2026 and 2028) and Louisiana State (2031 and 2032).
“We’re in conversations with other teams,” Harlan said. “Scheduling has been on a pause a little bit during COVID. I guess the philosophy of scheduling eight or nine years out has been replaced with the philosophy of scheduling five days out. So we’ll kind of process all of what’s happened and get back to our scheduling work that lies ahead.”
Meanwhile, the number of nonconference games Pac-12 teams play could change in the future.
“What’s interesting is, we have three more years leading up to the new television deal for our league. We’ll have to take a look at how that plays out,” Harlan said. “Are we going to stay at nine conference games? Are we going to go forward or go back in terms of quantity of games? We’ll wait and see.”
Utah and BYU were originally scheduled to open the 2020 season at Rice-Eccles Stadium but that game was canceled due to the pandemic. Harlan and BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe have discussed how to make up that game.
“We plan on putting that game back in the continuum of games in the future. We have not solidified that date,” Harlan said. “We will be resuming the series in 2021 in Provo, as the contract originally stated. It’s difficult to move home games and away games … We will take a break and play the University of Florida in 2022 and 2023. Then we’ll resume the (BYU) series in 2024.
“Tom has stated, and I have too, that if we’re talking about football scheduling, we want to stay close to communicating with each other and our staffs when there’s an opportunity that comes to either program. That was the case with the Florida series.”
In 2012, Utah announced that the Utes and Cougars were not scheduled to play each other in 2014 and 2015, interrupting a series that had been played each year since 1946.
Instead of playing BYU, Utah played a home-and-home series with Michigan in 2014 and 2015.
The Utes and Cougars ended up playing in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2015, a game that Utah won, 35-28. The Utes have won nine consecutive games against BYU, dating back to 2010.