The death of Utes cornerback Aaron Lowe weighs heavy on everyone in the University of Utah community.
It seems trivial to talk about a game right now. But it’s a game those who close to Lowe would tell you he loved, and a team he cared about a great deal. In light of that, maybe talking about football can be therapeutic for some.
So let’s talk.
As always if you have a question for the Utah Utes mailbag, you can fire off a tweet to @Joshua_Newman, slide into my DMs, email me at email@example.com, or even leave a comment at the bottom of this story.
Q: “I feel like Utah needs to do something with No. 22 to continuously honor Ty [Jordan] and Aaron. What would you like to see them do with that number?” - @StevenHaglund
A: For starters, nice job by the athletic department to take the LLTJ No. 22 logo and alter it to fit ‘TJ’ and ‘AL’ inside the pair of 2s shaped like a heart. Better job to tweet that out at 2:22 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.
I appreciated the fact that Lowe changed his number from 2 to 22 to honor Jordan this season. This is all still very new and very raw, but I wouldn’t argue if Utah decided to retire No. 22, or at least take it out of circulation for a while. If a future player stepped up and wanted to wear No. 22 in tribute, I can’t imagine that player would get resistance, but it is hard to envision that happening anytime soon.
One thing is clear: No. 22 is going to live on forever within this football program. It will be a reminder of the resiliency that Lowe and everyone else showed in the wake of Jordan’s death, but it will also be a reminder of what everyone lost. Not just the football program, but the friends, families and fans of both players.
No. 22 is now part of the identity of Utah football.
Q: “I don’t know if this is even a possibility, but I really wonder what this is like for the coaches and AD behind the scenes. We have the press releases, but I’d rather know what Whitt is feeling, Scalley is feeling, etc., in-depth. I know that’s hard, they’re not exactly open.” -- @DanItAllJazz
A: I have a lot of questions for a bunch of people. Some of those questions will get answered, a greater number of them won’t, at least not right away.
We all want to know what everyone is thinking about this, and yes, we all want to know what emotions this coaching staff is feeling, especially Whittingham. No doubt.
We didn’t get any of that after Ty Jordan’s death, because it happened after last season, so Whittingham did very few interviews in the weeks that followed, and the players did none. This time around might be different.
There are no promises of when the next time a Utah coach or player will speak, but the Utes are in the middle of a season. At minimum, I expect Whittingham will do his next scheduled ESPN700 show on Tuesday evening. That is technically a contract obligation, but might he skip that in favor of decompressing? I wouldn’t blame him.
The next time Whittingham might speak is Monday morning during his normal start-of-the-week press conference at the Eccles Football Center.
Speaking of which ...
Q: “Is there a possibility that the University just cancels any media availability for coaches and players this season? Or just postpones it for the next 3-4 games? I feel like these coaches and players need a break.” -- @Reilly_kb93
A: To be clear, this is not professional sports, so this athletic department is under no obligation to make anyone available to speak to the media.
I suppose there is a possibility of media availability continuing to be shut down for the foreseeable future, but I don’t think that is going to be the case. My best, educated guess right now is, beginning next week, Whittingham circles back to his normal media availability. As for everyone else? Tough to gauge right now, but my instinct is some limited player availability next week.
Q: “It’s going to be hard to critique the play of this team going forward. Probably for the rest of the season. I can appreciate how hard this may make your job, Josh.” -- @ScreamAtTheTV
A: There’s no question here, but this is probably worth diving into.
The remainder of this football season feels very secondary right now, and it is hard to see that changing anytime soon. These players and this staff are going through real life, real tragedy, real life-altering moments for the second time in nine months. We’re talking about a death, not an injury, not a transfer, not even an arrest.
If you listened to Nick Ford on Tuesday morning on 1280 The Zone, it sounds as if this team will plow forward in Lowe’s memory, which one might expect, but there is also a sense that none of this matters right now. It is hard for me to see how any of this matters at all for the rest of the season.
Q: “Outside of the Utes beat, what’s the biggest story you’ve covered as a journalist?” -- @UnholiestJedi
A: I pondered this for a few minutes, made a mental checklist of 17 years. I was about to answer this one way, but then it hit me.
I’ve lived a pretty charmed career existence over the last decade. Got to cover a bunch of things I daydreamed for years about, got to go to a lot of places I never thought I’d get to.
Any of it, all of it pales in comparison to having to make the phone calls I’ve had to make, talk to who I’ve had to talk to, write what I’ve had to write, think about what I’ve had to think about over the last nine months.
Here’s an honest piece of advice for young journalists: Learn to be comfortable outside of your comfort zone. You never know the position you may find yourself in.
Q: “What have you seen from the o-line against WSU and do you think it will translate to better play against USC in two weeks?” -- @ShortStackUte
A: The offensive line played well on Saturday, certainly better than it did in the previous two games. Despite the seven fumbles, Utah rushed for 213 yards at 6.5 yards per carry. That’s something to hang your hat on and, if you can’t figure out the fumbles, this group should be in business.
From left to right, is Jaren Kump-Keaton Bills-Nick Ford-Sataoa Laumea-Braeden Daniels finally it, with Bam Olaseni at No. 6? I think so, and it took four games to finally get there.
Critiquing anything having to do with football right now, or at all this season, seems inconsequential, but there is 75% of a season still to play, which is still a lot of time for this offensive line to get a lot better.
Q: “A few weeks back, we heard about “The Alliance” between the Pac-12, B1G Ten and the ACC. We also heard about how some combination of long-term scheduling agreements and the TV deals make it so that there will be few opportunities to add “Alliance” matchups in football over the near-term. However, I was curious as to whether we are likely to see a bunch of Alliance matchups in men’s and women’s basketball as soon as next year? I know there are some scheduling agreements in basketball as well, but I get the sense that a lot of staffs are working to finalize their non-conference schedule over the summer for the upcoming season.” -- Emailer Matt Johnson
A: The big difference between football and basketball scheduling is that while football schedules are mostly done years in advance, the majority of a basketball team’s non-conference is done year by year.
With that, the expectation is that Alliance matchups in basketball may begin as soon as 2022-23. What that looks like exactly is still TBD, but that’s what everyone seems to be leaning towards.
Utah’s men’s program, which didn’t have full control over its scheduling for a variety of reasons this season, will get a nice little bump in competition next season if Alliance scheduling comes through.