Utah Utes running back Micah Bernard (2) straightens up after being hit by Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Ben Bywater (33) as BYU and Utah play an NCAA football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, September 11, 2021. BYU won 26-17, ending a nine-game losing streak against the Utes. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY – For many of us, in an increasingly bygone era, college football represented a form of charm not found in any other sport.
There was nothing quite like Saturday afternoons in the fall, the pomp and circumstance that included the drum major in giant strides prancing across the field as the marching band played your team’s fight song. The NFL, however popular, has never been able to match pageantry.
Those were the days, my friends. We thought they would never end – yeah, that’s right.
Even with all the changes – late tee times, sidelined rivalries, coaches demanding full buy-ins and then fleeing before the season is over, etc. – the hardliners stayed the course. They could never give up on their schools, even if the sport started to look more and more like the NFL.
For decades, every New Year’s Day was the best for college football fans. All the big bowling games, highlighted by the Big Ten against a West Coast team in the sunny Rose Bowl, were on TV long before any network coined the phrase. In the name of progress, we tolerated the likes of Oklahoma, Texas, and even Texas Christian playing in Pasadena, California on the holiest day in college football.
This time, however, the sport is pushing the boundaries of tolerance. No more change and they might as well play the games on Sunday.
Over the past couple of years the sport has gone crazy with the transfer portal creating a constant flow of rosters and the new NIL (name, image and likeness) which allows players to choose a school based on financial windfalls. To hell with academics, money is king.
The players deserve some form of compensation, but as sporting directors and coaches say, it’s already spiraling out of control in just a few months. Rich boosters, which were already supported more than necessary, will gain more weight on programs.
Pony or fall by the wayside. The new order has arrived.
Speaking of falling by the wayside, say goodbye to the Pac-12 as we know it. Rooted from humble beginnings dating back to 1915, the conference that became the Pac-8 in 1964 is now on its last legs.
Thanks to the stunning news that staples USC and UCLA are bolting to the Big Ten in two years, the conference could implode in days. Loyalties have nothing on television media rights, which fetch millions of dollars.
From the start, the nation has been clamoring to see USC fight the Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey, on a beautiful late November afternoon. Hey, at least Ohio State or Michigan don’t need to worry about losing to the Trojans on New Years Eve anymore.
Sad to say that all those Utah fans who proudly stuck Pac-12 stickers on their cars may have to scrape them off now. Or maybe they could stick on the first part and make the stickers say Big 12.
Without the two Los Angeles universities, the Pac-12 can only survive by becoming a glorified Mountain West Conference. The possible solution could leave Utah administrators to plead with their Big 12 counterparts for admission.
“Don’t panic, but this is serious business, obviously,” former Utah athletic director Chris Hill said in an interview on The Zone.
A year ago, after Oklahoma and Texas announced plans to leave for the Southeastern Conference, the Big 12 expanded to include BYU, Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston. At the time, the conference wanted to include Power Five teams and could now get their wish.
A 16-team Big 12 that includes Utah, Colorado and Arizona’s two Pac-12 schools makes sense. And unless the Big Ten or the SEC come calling, Utah might have no other options.
Even then, it may just be a temporary home. Many tipsters expect in the coming years to see the Big Ten and the SEC gobble up more programs to form two super conferences, ranging from 32 to 48 teams, leaving everyone else to pick up the crumbs.
“You have to be one of the top tiers of the Big 12 because I think they’re going to be cannibalized in eight years and there’s probably going to be 30-40 schools in probably two leagues. Maybe 20 team leagues or something. thing like that like that,” Hill said.
“It’s obviously monkey-seeing, monkey-doing. If the SEC goes to 20, then I’m sure the Big Ten will go to 20 or vice versa.”