Just a few years ago both BYU and The University of Utah were big fish in the little pond of the Mountain West conference. Fast forward two years and both are out of the Mountain West, and floundering to make a presence in the big ocean of college football. For example, if I told you back in 2010 right after the Utes went 10-2 that Utah would not even make a bowl game in two years, you would probably think that I was crazy. Unfortunately, that is the reality for the Utes. They are now just a little fish in a conference that makes the mountain west look like a swimming pool. The same can be said for the Cougars. If I were to tell you that BYU would lose to a team the likes of San Jose State and that it wouldn’t be a season destroying loss, you would think I was making it up. But that too is the case for a team that was always in contention for a MWC championship.
It is pretty obvious why both teams jumped ship on the Mountain West. For BYU it was mostly because they were not getting enough rights for broadcasting their games seeing that they do have an international TV station that has the capability of reaching millions of households. That being said, they were often times stuck on some channel that only reached a select number of people in the Mountain West region.
For Utah it was largely because of money. For example, the first place Pac-12 team can play in a bowl game with a pay out of $34 million more than the top earning bowl in the MWC. Just that fact alone will have schools running to get on board. That, and the fact that the Pac-10 had led the country in Championships in 44 of the last 50 years. Put that all together and those are some pretty inviting numbers.
But the thing that brought the two schools together, and maybe the only thing they saw eye to eye on, was the lack of respect that was being shown their way. The best case of this was the 2008 Utes, who went undefeated only to be snuffed out of the Championship game. By the way, the Utes went on to walk all over Nick Saban and Alabama, who at the time, were Forbes Magazines pick for “Most Powerful Coach in Sports”. Now we know that might actually be true, making the Utes argument that much better.
Sadly, now in present day, both teams have seen how good they really had it in the comfort of the Mountain West. Neither team has been able to show that they deserved more respect than they were already getting. Sure, BYU was able to get an eight year ESPN TV contract that had the Cougars on national TV seven times this last season and that doesn’t include the ABC or NBC games. Utah has been able to add some of college football’s historic names to their schedule like USC, Stanford, Oregon, and Michigan, this time in Rice-Eccles, something that would have never happened a few years ago.
But was all of this really worth it? If you were to ask either team before all of this transpired, if they wanted to have a winning season or get to play some better schools, what do you think they would say? That is really what it has come down to, would you rather be the shark in the swimming pool or the minnow of the ocean?
– Andrew Sorensen