It was supposed to be as sure as death and taxes. One day, and soon, University of Utah athletic teams would ascend to the Pac-10 Conference and take their rightful place among the elite of college sports, playing before packed stadiums, cashing in on lucrative television contracts, gobbling up premier recruits with relative ease. And, perhaps most importantly, getting a guaranteed payday and an inside track to a college football championship by joining a conference whose winner automatically qualifies for the Bowl Championship Series.
Finally, the long-awaited churn is under way. Major college sports conferences are realigning, spurred in part by the Pac-10's decision to gobble up Colorado, a Big 12 Conference school. But it appears that Utah, which was always expected to run onto the Pac-10 playing field in tandem with Colorado, may be left standing on the sidelines.
Perhaps, should Utah remain a part of the Mountain West Conference instead of joining the self-proclaimed Conference of Champions, it will turn out for the best.
Why? First, the MWC, as a football conference, just got a lot stronger, accepting perennial-power Boise State University into the fold. With four teams -- Utah, BYU, TCU and Boise State --- expected to reside in the Top 25, the MWC could soon be in line for its own automatic BCS Bowl berth.
Plus, there are other reasons the MWC remains a good fit for the Utes.
A glance at the map will tell you that, geographically, the MWC makes more sense. Less time traveling means more time studying, a smaller carbon footprint and reduced travel expenses.
Plus, at least in down years, Utah could run the risk of becoming a second-tier team in some Pac-10 sports instead of competing for the MWC championships that fans and players have come to hold so dear.
And then there's the matter of the rivalries --- the Utes and Air Force in football, Utah and UNLV on the hardwood, Utah versus BYU in anything from tiddlywinks and tennis to football and basketball.
While there would be room for a few of the old MWC adversaries on the non-conference schedule if Utah defects, and Utah-BYU matchups in major sports would surely continue, the games would lose some of their significance as non-league contests with little more than pride on the line.
So, the good news is that the bad news --- a rejection of Utah by the Pac-10 -- wouldn't be so bad after all.
Either way, with the addition of Boise State to the MWC, Utah's football fortunes will take a turn for the better.