Utah Football: Utes could play Big Ten teams sooner than later
El Paso, Texas • The agreement between the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences has a target date of 2017 for each Pac-12 team to have a Big Ten team on its non-conference schedule. However, that matchup could come much, much sooner for the Utah Utes, according to athletic director Chris Hill.
The only non-conference teams the Utes have on their future schedules is a Sept. 15 game against BYU next year and a three-year agreement with Utah State for the 2012-through-2014 seasons, giving the Utes some wiggle room when it comes to scheduling opponents.
"We left it open by design," Hill said. "We were hoping and anticipating the new TV contract might bring some new opportunities that would help us grow some national exposure and this agreement could help us maybe do that sooner rather than later."
Hill said he has heard some Big Ten teams, including Michigan, are interested in scheduling Pac-12 teams soon but stopped short of saying a deal with the Wolverines might be in the works.
The Utes opened their 2008 season with a 25-23 win over Michigan in the Big House.
"This is a good thing for all our sports," he said. "It makes sense to schedule a team like Michigan or a Big Ten team like that because it would be an exciting thing, but it also makes scheduling difficult in some respects, we have to make sure we schedule ourselves to a point where we help our teams too."
To that point, Hill doesn't want to create a schedule that would be too challenging for the Utes. That concern could mean the rivalries with Utah State and BYU are in more jeopardy than they already were.
"I haven't had a chance to talk to [BYU athletic director] Tom Holmoe or [Utah State athletic director] Scott Barnes yet," Hill said. "I don't want to give people the wrong impression but we've said all along we don't know what different opportunities are going to come our way. We have to take a deep breath and look at everything."
No fans? No worries
Even though the Utes sold just 1,500 tickets to the Sun Bowl, the Utes still won't lose money on their bowl appearance thanks to a generous allowance from the Pac-12.
The Utes don't get any revenue from the league per their agreement with joining the Pac-12 in 2011, but Utah did receive an estimated $750,000 from the league for the bowl appearance.
In addition, the Pac-12 pays for airfare for 500 people traveling to the bowl game. The Utes had no such help in the MWC.
The Pac-12 will also help cover some of the cost of the unsold tickets.
"They have a very generous formula," Hill said. "We anticipate we won't lose any money."
Hill said he wasn't concerned his school might make a poor impression with the few tickets sold to the bowl game.
"We know a lot of fans took trips earlier in the year, more than ever," he said. "It's difficult to get here and farther to drive than if it were at the Holiday Bowl and we don't have a lot of alumni here. But it is a great bowl and it is going to be good for national exposure. Our fans have been fabulous, how can I be disappointed in them?"
The Yellow Jackets haven't won a bowl game since the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl when it beat Syracuse 51-14. Since then, the Yellow Jackets are 0-6, including the 2005 Emerald Bowl loss to Utah.
Most recently, Georgia Tech lost to LSU 38-3 in the 2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl, to Iowa 24-14 in the 2010 Orange Bowl and to Air Force 14-7 in the 2010 Independence Bowl.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said his team is well aware of the losing streak but that each team is different and he doesn't believe there is a common thread with the losses.
"The last three times we've played good teams," he said. "We should have won last year's game. I'm not trying to take anything away from Air Force but we should have won last year's game. The other two, LSU and Iowa, you have to credit them. We drew another good football team this time so we will see."