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After shadowing my predecessor, Kurt Kragthorpe, for my first month in Salt Lake City, I took over as The Tribune’s University of Utah beat writer in January.
I have not yet covered a football game as the beat guy, nor have I even been inside Rice-Eccles Stadium, but I’ve talked to a lot of people on and off campus, and would like to think I’ve at least come to somewhat understand the vibe of the fan base.
Before this week, this fan base struck me as clearly passionate about the Utes. You don’t sell out every home game for the last decade otherwise, but these fans didn’t strike me as rabid, living and dying with every snap. I don’t mean that as a knock, just an observation.
In hindsight, I didn’t have a clear snapshot until earlier this week when I sought out season-ticket holders to ask how they’re feeling with no football being played this fall at Rice-Eccles. Only now, nine months after I showed up here, did I get the rabid side of things.
I feel bad for a guy like Jacob Johnsen, who’s been going to games since he was five and now, between him and his siblings, have 17 season tickets. Johnsen was an awesome interview. Clearly invested, clearly crushed over no football, he said he would have been willing to wear the Walter White-Jesse Pinkman hazmat suit if they would have let fans in.
I feel bad for a guy like Tim Preece, another forever diehard whose family-owned season tickets date back to 1991, long before the Pac-12, years before even the Mountain West came calling. Preece’s entire year revolves around Utes football.
I feel bad for a guy like Steve Harries, who was more subdued than Johnsen and Preece, but no less frustrated. Harries started with two season tickets, then added more when his children arrived. When I asked Harries how he would fill the void on fall Saturdays, he didn’t have a sure answer, which makes the situation worse in my mind.
So, here’s to you, Utah fans. I hope you fill your fall Saturdays well, I hope you don’t miss football too much, I hope we can all get back to our sporting pleasures at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Hopefully, I can see the inside of the Rice-Eccles press box for the first time.
More Utes/Pac-12/NCAA thoughts
• The NCAA is readying to furlough its entire staff from anywhere between 3-8 weeks, but “the furloughs will not affect senior executives,” per the Associated Press. Sure, why would they? NCAA president Mark Emmert only made $2.7 million in 2018.
• There is going to be no movement, none, on anything to do with Utah, Pac-12, or college basketball in general until the NCAA weighs in with a start date on Sept. 16. The Pac-12 has said sports at all until at least Jan. 1, but expect that to get looked at again by the league once a start date is established.
• The Big Ten has been reduced to parents protesting outside league headquarters, a group of Nebraska players suing, and football coaches pushing their own agendas through the national media. You’re the Big Ten. You have 13 AAU members and some of the finest academic institutions the United States has to offer. Be better than what the two weeks have produced.
• The possibility, however remote it may be, of the Big Ten and Pac-12 lining up winter/spring football schedules, culminating in a second Rose Bowl sounds……….awesome.
• Semi-random Utah thing I’ll likely dive into soon: If fall sports are getting moved to the spring, what becomes of cross country? You can’t just stick cross country in the spring in the middle of outdoor track and field. As a bit of a closet track nerd, I suspect XC gets bagged entirely until next fall.
• We got that first teeny, tiny bit of fall air this week. Give me more. In fact, give me all of it.
• Millie’s Burgers in Sugar House: Solid, will go back, especially for the ice cream. It only took me nine months of living around the block to try it for the first time.
• The Jazz have an interesting offseason coming. Offering Donovan Mitchell the rookie max extension feels imminent, but whether or not to offer Rudy Gobert the “supermax” will be a point of contention. Nobody asked me, but the franchise should hold on to Jordan Clarkson.