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BYU's Taysom Hill celebrates with fans after a 47-46 victory over Houston in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Monson: How big a deal is BYU, Utah and Utah State football, really?
First Published Apr 15 2014 04:43 pm • Last Updated Apr 15 2014 08:34 pm

You think Utah, BYU, or Utah State is ready for the big time?

You think Utah is a football state, where the college game is large and every other sport is petite-sized?

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You think football is king here, along the lines of the game’s other regal regions, and deserves to be mentioned with them on an annual basis?

Au contraire, my friends.

It’s not even close. We’re not even close.

How do we know, beyond the sorry facts that the Utes have won five Pac-12 games and lost something like 50 over the past two seasons, and the Cougars seem to lose most of their big games against top teams and then fatten up their independent record with lesser outfits, and the Aggies still play in the Mountain West?

There’s another indicator that shows how far behind our fine state is compared to states like Ohio and Nebraska and Alabama and Tennessee and Georgia. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Maybe it’s the lack of a cultural thing. Maybe it’s because in those areas there’s nothing better to do. Maybe it’s because Uncle Jeb and the boys have always loaded up the truck and headed off for a little taste of SEC or Big Ten football in the offseason.

We’re talking about the Spring Game.

We’re talking about attending the Spring Game.

We’re talking about making attending the Spring Game a big deal.

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If football fans in Utah want to see themselves as football-centric, they’ve got to gun it down another 500 miles of highway to get there. They’ve got to make getting to the Spring Game a priority.

Right now, it’s not.

And that reflects poorly on your — our — love for football.

Sure, the state has leaned in that direction over the past couple of decades, maybe surpassing basketball as Utah’s lifeblood sport, despite the fact that there are probably more basketball courts in this area, certainly per capita, than anywhere else on the planet. There’s a gym attached to a majority of the churches in this state, and there are a million churches.

But football has made huge advances, based mostly on the success of the past, where BYU and Utah built success and sizable followings by beating up on teams in less competitive leagues. While that numerical success has gotten a bit thinner, Cougar and Ute football games still cause people to stop and watch. There’s a buzz around most of them, regardless of those losing records by the Utes in the Pac-12 and some of the milquetoast opponents on the schedule for BYU. More on that in a minute.

First, back to the other indicator, which is related to success and what’s stressed.

Don’t think the numbers of fans who show up for what is essentially a scrimmage in the spring doesn’t matter. In those rich football regions, it matters the way water matters to the thirsty mouth, the way oxygen matters to the empty lung, the way cheesecake matters to the growling belly.

Look at Penn State, where the Nittany Lions recently drew some 72,000 fans for their exhibition, or at Tennessee, or at Alabama, or at Auburn, or at Nebraska, where those programs annually bring in 50,000 to 80,000 fans for a game that nobody else thinks counts, except for the fans who think everything about their program counts.

Recently, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller had his fun at the expense of Michigan, when he tweeted out attendance figures at the schools for this year’s spring games:

Ohio State: 61,058.

Michigan: Just over 15,000.

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