The Utah basketball program has drawn criticism since its move to the Pac-12 Conference because of its failure to play its traditional in-state rivals, notably Utah State and Weber State.
Utah athletics director Chris Hill said it’s an understandable sentiment and plans to do something about that. Hill said he has reached out to BYU, USU and Weber State about a four-team tournament that would take place at EnergySolutions Arena.
It would offer fans across the state an opportunity to see all four teams in one place playing against each other. The earliest it could happen is 2015, Hill said.
“We would love to have a mini-tournament to start the year,” Hill said. “We want to play the in-state games. We know the value that it holds with the fans, and we want to continue the rivalries.”
Utah last played Utah State in 2011, Jim Boylen’s last season. The Utes played Weber State in Ogden during Larry Krystkowiak’s first season in 2012, and they have continued to play BYU every season.
Pressure on Utah has mounted to include in-state matchups, particularly since this season’s non-conference schedule is considered one of the weakest in the country.
Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes confirmed that he and Hill have talked about a tournament, but Barnes doesn’t want to do it at the expense of a home-and-home series.
“We want to play Utah,” Barnes said. “But we also want them to come to Logan and play us. If we agreed to the tournament, we think that would put a home-and-home series in jeopardy, and that’s a concern for us.”