Utah receives invite to join the Pac-10
SALT LAKE CITY – Utah is poised to become the 12th member of the Pac-10 as the conference quickly pivoted Wednesday to invite the Utes after being turned down by Texas and four other members of the Big 12 two days ago.
Utah officials did not immediately say whether the invitation would be accepted, but it would be shocking if the Utes didn’t leave the Mountain West Conference for the Pac-10.
Spokeswoman Liz Abel said the athletics department would not comment until Thursday, after the school’s board of trustees meets to discuss the school’s conference affiliation. A news conference was scheduled at the football stadium following the meeting.
Pac-10 officials are expected to attend Thursday’s news conference in Utah.
Utah has been a member of the MWC since the league began in 1999 – and one of its most successful in football and basketball.
There had been speculation on Tuesday that Utah would be the next school to be approached by the Pac-10. When asked about the possibility, school president Michael Young told The Associated Press “we wouldn’t anticipate making a move of this magnitude without the concurrence of our board of trustees.”
A message left with Randy Dryer, chairman of the board of trustees, was not immediately returned Wednesday. If Utah bolts the Mountain West, it would be the latest in a string of conference affiliation changes.
Last week, Colorado decided to leave the Big 12 and accept an invitation to join the Pac-10. Nebraska has also said it will leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten, while Boise State is fleeing the Western Athletic Conference to join the Mountain West.
The Mountain West called a news conference for Thursday following Utah’s.
Earlier in the week, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State recommitted to the Big 12 instead of hopping to the Pac-10.
That left the Pac-10 in need of another member to reach the 12 required to hold a football championship game. Pac-10 spokeswoman Danette Leighton declined to say when Utah would begin competing in the Pac-10 if it accepts the conference’s invitation.
The addition of Utah now gives Colorado a geographical rival and travel partner. The league is likely to divide into two six-team divisions and how that will shakeout is unclear.
The other members of the Pac-10 are USC, UCLA, Stanford, California, Washington, Washington State, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Oregon State.
Utah officials have long been frustrated about their inability to play for a football national championship while in the Mountain West. Utah had an undefeated season in 2008 but was not invited to the national title game. It defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Utah also went undefeated in 2004 and did not play for the national championship.
Under the Bowl Championship Series, the champions of six conference have automatic bids to play in top-tier bowl games, while the other conferences such as the Mountain West don’t. Those six conferences also receive more money than the other conferences.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, angered that the Utes were denied an opportunity to play for a national title, has said he’s investigating the BCS for possible antitrust violations.
He said although Utah is “exhibit A” as to why the BCS is unfair, the investigation would continue if Utah changed conferences. He plans to meet with the U.S. Department of Justice in July to discuss the matter.
“We’re convinced the system as set up is anticompetitive,” he said. “It goes way beyond the University of Utah.”
Utah lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, have also expressed their frustrations with the BCS.
Last year, the state legislature adopted a resolution calling for a playoff system to determine college football’s national champion after an undefeated Utah was shut out of the national title game for the second time in four years.
Utah’s lawmakers contend the BCS formula is flawed and gives schools from the major conferences an unfair advantage that would make it impossible for a school like the Mountain West’s Brigham Young to win the national title, as the Cougars did in 1984 when they were a member of the WAC.