For the first time in 66 years, Utah and Utah State aren't scheduled to play each other in men's basketball. The reason for this: Utah's move to the Pac-12.
Utah athletic director Chris Hill had some pretty lousy answers for dodging the game, which, all of a sudden, was too hard to accommodate. Things like more league games than what the Utes had in the Mountain West were chief among the excuses. No matter what reasons Utah wants to throw out there, the primary one this century-long tiff on the court isn't happening next season is because it's no longer a priority for Utah, which leads the series, 130-93.
Having gone to a new conference, Utah is now looking like the kid who shed 15 pounds in senior year of high school, got a new 'do and is running with the popular crew. The'yre suddenly too involved with themselves and new friends to pay much attention to one of their oldest pals. Sad, really.
There's hope yet for the Utes and Aggies to keep the rivalry alive, though. And make no mistake about it, this rivalry is a heated one, an annual event that means a lot to the people in Utah. The fact it's on a temporary hiatus has boiled over a lot of people.
So how will this battle be resuscitated? How about a four-team, Utah-based tournament?
That's going to be put on the table soon. The games would ideally be played in Salt Lake City, in the Jazz's house. In addition to Utah and Utah State, BYU and Weber State would be part of the get-together.
BYU's also alienated the state to an extent, as its move to the West Coast Conference, a residency that begins in July, has put a halt on a few looked-forward-to games, many of those between Mountain West opponents -- like Utah.
As such, [Hill has] floated an idea with Utah Jazz officials and BYU athletics director Tom Holmoe about bringing the Utes, Cougars, Aggies and Weber State together at EnergySolutions Arena to start each season in an effort to build some excitement and allow the teams to play each other. The Utes are contractually committed to playing at Weber State in 2011, but there is no agreement between the Wildcats and Utes beyond this year.
Utah and USU are in the midst of a two-year hiatus in football, marking just the 10th and 11th times since 1900 that the teams didn't square off on the gridiron.
The idea for a four-team tournament isn't new. Indiana will begin its Crossroads Classic next season, the Purdue/Indiana/Butler/Notre Dame extravaganza was first introduced more than 60 years ago. Teams in the greater New York area have tried to accommodate this sort of event for nearly a decade. It's a moneymaking machine, and something fans clamor for. And for the sake of rivalries, early-season interest in college basketball and a boost in mountain-time college ball, the teams need to agree to this and make it possible for 2012.
Don't let something egotistical like a change in conference affiliation affect rivalries and dampen the enthusiasm for the fans, Utah. This one's all on you, Utes.