Utah Leaving Mountain West Conference/Joins Pac-10

June 19, 2010 – By Scott

The Utah Utes have mounted two undefeated seasons in NCAA Football in the past six years. As a member of the Mountain West Conference, the Utes had to rely on at-large bids to be selected to play in one of college football’s elite BCS Bowls.

They will not have to worry about sneaking into one of the prestige bowls after this year as the Utes have joined the Pac-10 on Thursday. The Pac-10 officially invited Utah to join the conference on Wednesday and university President Michael Young signed on a day later.

“Today is an absolutely great day to be a Ute,” athletic director Chris Hill said Thursday.

The Utes will play their last season in the Mountain West this year before joining the Pac-10 in 2011. The most important aspect of this move for the university is that they are now in a conference that is guaranteed a BCS spot. In addition, they are leaving a conference where national television exposure were very limited. On the flip side though, Utah will be playing in one of the nations’ premier conferences and their schedule will get much tougher.

“We don’t have limits right now so we can take a full swing,” Hill said. “That’s what’s great about this opportunity for us. We can go for it.”

The Utes have played well against Pac-10 teams and are 7-3 against teams in the conference in their last 10 games. In 2004 and 2008, Utah enjoyed undefeated seasons and did get selected to a BCS bowl. However, the 2008 squad was the only undefeated team in the nation and they were snubbed from the national title game. They did show they were worthy of an opportunity to play for it all as they routed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Head football coach Kyle Whittingham gives the university’s athletes credit for being given the invitation to join the Pac-10.

“First and foremost, the reason this has happened is because the athletes that we’ve had at the University of Utah have worked so hard and done so much to put this program on the map,” Whittingham said. “That really is where the lion’s share of the credit goes to.”

The change of conferences by Utah will have an efffect in other sports as well. The Utes have very good men’s and women’s basketball programs that will also be competitive in Pac-10 play. However, in baseball and tennis, the competition will become more demanding. Men’s head basketball coach Jim Boylen in excited about the move.

“It’s awesome news. It’s an unbelievable feeling in the city and around the university on a lot of levels,” Boylen said. “It’s just a bigger stage for our athletes and a bigger platform to recruit from and that’s a big deal.”

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