It was a good idea the moment it was conceived and now, coming up on Dec. 9, the realization of the concept will make the idea even better.
Early season college basketball that people actually care about.
An instate doubleheader, including Utah and Utah State, BYU and Weber State at Vivint Smart Home Arena, will bring the college game in Utah together in one place on one floor on one night long before college hoops usually warms up around here.
This kind of face-to-face, elbow-to-face, bragging-to-face competition will get the blood flowing, the welts swelling, the smack talk going, increasing local interest in basketball at a time when football usually floods the college sports consciousness.
Some of these schools have had a difficult time meeting up, either because one wants home-floor advantages that others do not want to yield or because the burn of rivalry has flared too hot.
Utah and Utah State haven’t played since the 2010-11 season, a ridiculous situation considering the two schools have proud basketball traditions, are 80 miles apart and have a long history of competitions that never should have been interrupted. BYU will play Weber State in the other game, teams that have played in the past and will go on playing.
The Classic is set up so the teams will rotate in doubleheaders, playing one another once in the event over a span of three years.
BYU and Utah do not meet in the inaugural event, but will do so the following year. This season, the teams’ rivalry game, torn apart when Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak decided he did not want to play the Cougars because of the heated nature of the games, will be restarted in the Marriott Center on Dec. 16.
When those schools meet at the Viv, it should further stamp the event as a celebration of local college ball.
The Beehive Classic is the brainchild of Steve Starks, president of Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment and the Utah Jazz. Starks thought bringing the teams together on the Jazz’s home floor would be a chance for fans of all the schools, and for the teams themselves, to rejuvenate their competition.
Better for these teams to play — rather than stay away from — one another.
“We believe the state of Utah is a basketball community,” says Jim Olson, president of Vivint Smart Home Arena. “People here love their basketball. We thought, let these schools play each other. Every school from the beginning was receptive to the concept and worked diligently to make it happen.”
Given some of the competitive animosity of the past, the event materialized rather seamlessly, administrators from all four schools realizing the benefits of playing the doubleheader at a time when drawing fans to games is not the easiest of sells.
There were some rough patches, most of them surrounding TV broadcast rights, but those complications have been smoothed over. The event contract is for three years, and all parties appear to want to extend that deal further.
Each of the schools was allotted 3,500 tickets to sell, with the arena folks holding a couple thousand tickets back to sell on their own. Marketing for those arena ticket sales hasn’t yet started, but they are expected to be brisk.
“The schools have indicated that their ticket sales are strong,” Olson says. “We’re getting a really good vibe. We get people calling every day asking for tickets.”
Some of the schools — BYU and Utah, in particular — are expected to sell all their tickets and request more.
Which is a healthy sign for college basketball in Utah, an endeavor that once, decades ago, ruled sports here. It was the sports king.
Now, compared to football and the Jazz, it is more knight-ish or pawn-ish.
Maybe an event like this will help it gain back its flowing robes.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.