Last week I was on Bruin Report Online, perhaps UCLA's biggest fan website, when someone posted a question on the football forum that was rather interesting:
Would you add Utah and BYU to make the Pac-12?
The people who replied they were against the Pac-10 conference expanding to include Brigham Young and Utah cited many factors: BYU's rule against play on Sundays due to the school's Mormon faith, the opinion that the two school's academics are not quite on par with many of the Pac-10's institutions, and not desiring to be a super-conference like the Big 12 and the SEC.
I, however, replied that the Utes from Salt Lake City and Provo's Cougars would be good additions to the conference, for these reasons:
1.) The Pac-10 is built on rivalries. Every school in the conference has a rival counterpart, which is not completely the case in the other BCS conferences; UCLA has USC, Stanford has Cal, and Oregon has Oregon State, to give examples.
BYU and Utah, located just 40 miles apart, have a rivalry so intense and hateful that it is called the Holy War; they have perhaps the worst hate for each other outside of the traditional BCS conferences. In that context, they would fit nicely within the Pac-10.
2. ) Academically, the two schools may not exactly be on par with the Ivy League, but they are not chopped liver either. Their standards as far as admissions and level of schoolwork are as good as Washington, Oregon and Arizona, and I believe they surpass Arizona State, Oregon State, and Washington State, at least in some areas.
In other words, Utah and BYU would measure up just fine.
3.) Both universities have excellent fan bases that travel well. They would provide good-sized crowds on the road, which would lead to good (and much needed) revenue for the other schools, some of which are cash strapped and would welcome the dollars that Cougar and Ute fans would bring to their school and their town.
4.) Facilities-wise, they match up to the rest of the Pac-10 very well. LaValle Edwards Stadium at BYU seats over 60,000, and Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium seats a perfectly respectable 45,000, which matches Oregon State's Reser Stadium and surpasses Washington State's Martin Stadium. Their basketball/volleyball homes are also very nice and would accommodate Pac-10 crowds.
5.) It's not just about football with these two; Utah's women's gymnastics team is a longtime powerhouse with nine national championships under its belt. The men's basketball team at BYU is currently ranked 17th in the AP poll and is likely headed for a Mountain West Conference title and a good seed in the NCAA tournament, and Cougar volleyball is also an perennial contender.
6.) And speaking of football, both have more than proved over the years that they can not only go toe-to-toe with anyone, they can also beat anyone.
A perfect example: I'm not sure if anyone realizes this, but Utah is the last team to have defeated the recently crowned BCS champion.
You heard me correctly; the Utes beat Alabama's Crimson Tide convincingly in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. 'Bama has not lost a football game since.
Any school that can do that is more than capable of contending for a Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl berth, thank you very much.
7.) A north and south division, which the conference would split into in football if Utah and BYU did join, could be a good thing. The north would consist of the Cougars, Utes, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State, while UCLA, USC, California, Stanford, Arizona and Arizona State would comprise the southern division.
Being that everyone would play everyone else in their division, the rivalries would be kept, which is a concern to some. Add to that the (at minimum) four games one would play against the other division, and that would be a good schedule.
The big selling point for a two-division Pac-12 would be a conference championship game. The Rose Bowl would be the perfect venue for it, as it would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, TV and otherwise, for all of the schools, in the addition to the money each institution gets from the January first Rose Bowl game.
If there's any Pac-10 school that would object to that, I'd like to hear from them.
8.) Lastly, I previously stated that BYU not playing on Sundays due to the fact that they are a Mormon school has some concerned that the sport's schedules would be more difficult to make.
My reply to that sentiment is this: The Mountain West Conference, which the Cougars and Utah are currently members of, make adjustments and accommodations for BYU all the time. They move games in sports that play on Sundays, such as baseball, to Saturdays, using a Thursday-Saturday format rather than a Friday-Sunday format.
The NCAA basketball tournament, which BYU has participated in recent years, has also set the Cougars' bracket so they wouldn't have to play on a Sunday with no problem.
If the Big Dance and Mountain West can do that, I don't see any reason why the Pac-10 couldn't.
While I feel that the idea of a Pac-12 Conference is intriguing, I'm also a realist, in that I don't see the conference expanding to embrace the Utes and Cougars anytime soon.
However, let me put my sentiments on this issue this way: I would not vote against expansion should it officially come on the table.
What does everyone else think?