There was a measure of excitement in the air for college basketball on Saturday at Vivint Smart Home Arena, the pro palace filled all the way up to around half-capacity for the third and final rendition of the Beehive Classic.
But that was for the BYU-Utah State nightcap.
The warmup act, Utah-Weber State, had all the verve and vibrance of a yard sale. The few thousand who were on hand, a smattering of diehards that made the home of the Jazz look vacuous, picked over the household items, rummaged through the old lamps and shovels and hoses, the semi-worn shoes and velvet paintings and kitchen utensils, then kind of collectively yawned and sniffed before moving on to other plans for the evening.
Some would be readmitted for the second game, those willing to pay the price, in search of something more captivating, more compelling, more caffeinated.
After the Utes dispensed with the Wildcats, 60-49, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak used in his wrap-up the words “atrocious” and “garbage.” And he was right. Krystkowiak was proud that his team overcame all of that, shooting 34 percent, 20 from deep, while the Weebs hit 33 percent, 22 from behind the arc. Indicative was this little beaut of a nugget: Weber missed 14 dunks/layups, Utah missed 10.
Combined, the teams made 39 of 115 shots.
It wasn’t good basketball, but the Utes would take it.
Hardly anyone else could.
The idea of the Beehive Classic, made real in 2017 with the inaugural joint session of BYU-Weber State and Utah-Utah State, was a noble one. It was a chance for the schools in Utah to face off on not just a neutral floor, but an NBA floor where so many college players dream of one day playing. It provided an opportunity for college basketball fans to come together in some combination of red on blue, blue on purple, purple on red, to celebrate the college game.
The problem was and is, not enough people want to celebrate the college game. Not anymore. College football, yes. College basketball, no.
And when it comes to the dollars to be generated and shared among the various parties, administrators themselves aren’t all that willing or pliable or cooperative in sharing that money.
And most significant of all the explanations for the downfall here is one undeniable truth: Fans don’t want to fork that cash over.
Not for this.
Maybe they would have done so 20 or 30 years ago, when the sporting public was more focused on local college hoop. Back then, fans would have filled the building. That’s not the case now. And who can blame them, really?
Compare college basketball to the NBA game, and … well, there is no comparison.
Think about it: Who would you rather pay to watch … Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert or Alfonso Plummer and Cody John, fine college players though those last two might be?
Ironic that is because one of the reasons executives of LHM — the parent company that runs the Jazz — wanted to host this event to begin with was to fire up interest in the local schools’ programs and bring those schools together in a basketball setting for the benefit of everybody. Undeniably, they wanted to make a little something on the deal, too.
The Jazz have always seen themselves as unifiers among splintered college fan bases, connecting varying patrons at Vivint Arena — to pull for the home NBA team. In this event, those fans could somehow connect with and appreciate basketball more, together, even while rooting for the individual team of their choice.
At least it could come to a crescendo in the state’s roundball temple.
It was a good try, a good effort.
But it never really took root, running dry by this, the third year. And, as has been reported by The Tribune, it will not be renewed.
Soaking in the empty atmosphere for Utah-Weber State made you wonder if the concert had been canceled and nobody told the bands. You could have flown the Goodyear blimp through the building and not blocked anyone’s view.
Not surprising, not one bit, considering the vast sections of empty seats these days at the Huntsman Center for many Utah games and the Dee Events Center for Weber games.
That atmosphere improved greatly for BYU-Utah State.
But the lid-lifter was a spectacular dud.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well,” said Krystkowiak, mentioning that sometimes that “garbage” gets dragged to the other end. “… Our defensive transition was atrocious, giving up layups. But it’s a big win for us.”
A big win almost nobody saw, and even worse, nobody cared to see.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.