What does Utah bring to the Pac-10?by Anthony Gimino on Jun. 16, 2010, under Sports
Utah is expected to officially accept an invitation to join the Pac-10 on Thursday, expanding the league to 12 teams.
Colorado made it 11 teams last week, when we examined what the Buffaloes bring to the league in terms of the major sports. Let’s do the same with the Utes:
Utah, as a member of the Mountain West Conference, has gone undefeated in two of the past six seasons. Now, we’ll get an answer to the criticism, “Yeah, but could they do it in a BCS conference?
Since 2003 — which was Urban Meyer‘s first season as coach — the Utes have gone 69-19. They routed Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl to cap the 2004 perfect season and smacked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to finish the 2008 season at 13-0 under Kyle Whittingham.
Utah is 3-3 against the Pac-10 in the past four seasons and 7-3 against the Pac-10 dating to 2003.
The Utes have won nine consecutive bowl games, the longest streak in the nation.
If they were in the Pac-10 this season, they would be considered part of a big pack chasing presumed favorites Oregon and USC. Utah is ranked No. 22 in the preseason by The Sporting News, No. 25 by Lindy’s and 28th by Phil Steele’s magazine.
Consider this: Utah turned to true freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn late last season, and he passed for 336 yards in a Poinsettia Bowl victory against future conference foe Cal, earning bowl MVP honors. The Utes figure to join the Pac-10 in 2012, when Wynn will be a senior and, most likely, one of top quarterbacks in the league.
Last meeting against Arizona: Nov. 2, 2005 — Utah 27, Arizona 24 (in Salt Lake City)
Utah struggled last season, going 14-17, but the program was a fifth seed in the 2009 NCAA Tournament when it had center Luke Nevill. Those Utes were quickly shown the NCAA exit, upset in the first round by Russ Pennell‘s Arizona squad.
No arguments with the fan base. Even in a down season, Utah averaged 9,202 fans last year against a Mountain West schedule, which would have been the third-best attendance mark in the Pac-10. Give the Utes a steady diet of Pac-10 teams at the Huntsman Center, and they might routinely have the second-largest crowds in the league behind Arizona.
They averaged around 14,000 fans during the mid- to late-1990s, when the program turned out players such as Keith Van Horn, Andre Miller and Michael Doleac. Utah, after stunning Arizona in the 1998 regional final, went to play Kentucky for the national championship, losing 78-69.
Utah, however, has been to only one of the past five NCAA Tournaments.
Last meeting against Arizona: March 17, 2009 — Arizona 84, Utah 71 (NCAA Tournament first round, Miami)
Highlights from CBS Sports (who can forget Jamelle Horne‘s would-be dunk that popped back from the net and up through the rim?):
Utah has been the main power in the Mountain West, winning seven of the 11 league titles. The Utes failed to claim the conference crown in 2010, going 23-12 and reaching the second round of the Women’s NIT before losing at Cal. The Utes went 1-3 against Pac-10 competition last season.
Utah has been to four of the past six NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Elite Eight in 2006 before losing in overtime to eventual national champion Maryland.
Last meeting against Arizona: Dec. 9, 2006 — Utah 66, Arizona 60 (Salt Lake City)
The Utes have not been distinguished, finishing under .500 in seven of the past nine seasons. They haven’t reached the postseason since 2006 and face major climb in a Pac-10 that has grown to nine teams for softball. Among league teams, only Oregon State failed to make the postseason in 2010.
The Utes have a quality coach with Arizona ties — Bill Kinneberg, who pitched for Jerry Kindall in 1979 and was UA’s associate head coach under Jerry Stitt from the 1997 through the 2001 seasons.
Kinneberg began his second stint as Utah’s head coach in the 2005 season. There’s not much baseball history to lean on, though. He led the Utes to the 2009 NCAA Tournament, which was their first appearance since 1960.
Slugging sophomore C.J. Cron earned All-America honors this season, but Utah was only 23-28, including a 1-7 mark against the Pac-10.