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Kragthorpe: Mountain West move is break Utah State deserves

Published April 30, 2012 2:34 pm

Conference shuffle • After 50-year search, the Aggies will have a proper home.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After two years of frustration and uncertainty about Utah State's conference affiliation, everything is coming together perfectly for the Aggies.

Did I say two years? Really, this search for a proper home has gone on for 50 years, ever since Utah and BYU joined a newly formed Western Athletic Conference that left out USU.

The Aggies soon will have a home in the Mountain West, as The Tribune's Tony Jones reported Sunday, preserving the USU football program's relevance as the WAC crumbles. The best part of all is this version of the Mountain West offers USU a genuine chance to compete when it joins the league in 2013.

The imminent departures of Boise State and San Diego State to the Big East — moves that suddenly seem misguided, don't they? — will help the Aggies, by any reasonable judgment. USU is comparable to the other nine football programs in the league, including the other former WAC members (Nevada, Fresno State, Hawaii and San Jose State) and the MWC holdovers (Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force, UNLV and New Mexico).

It may have happened partly by accident, but USU athletic director Scott Barnes could not have designed a better landscape of football competition than this 10-school alignment. It offers regional, historic rivalries and comes with no overwhelming program at the top, such as Boise State.

This is even better than what would have resulted two years ago when USU president Stan Albrecht, in his role as the WAC's designated administrator, attempted to bring in BYU for sports other than football as part of the Cougars' move to independence. The unintended consequence of those good intentions, ultimately, is the apparent demise of the WAC as a football league.

But the Aggies have come out of these two years of agonizing with an ideal opportunity for coach Gary Andersen's football program. When the BYU/WAC plan fell apart in August 2010 as Nevada and Fresno State bolted to the Mountain West, I remember assessing the mood in Logan on a dark, cloudy Monday.

"I would be nice if we could just catch a break," said USU booster Mooch Spackman.

Longtime broadcaster Al Lewis said, "All of us are feeling like, gosh, if there's something else that can go wrong, it'll probably go wrong. It always seems like it happens that way."

By all accounts, the Aggies finally are getting a break. Something's going right for them. And everything suggests that Andersen has positioned them to take full advantage of it.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt