Why is there no ‘Night With the Runnin’ Utes’ this season?

Also in the Utah Utes mailbag: Did College GameDay whiff on Utah-Oregon State?

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Photographs and piped in sounds of a crowd fill the void as the Utes host the Stanford Cardinal on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.

The proverbial end of the University of Utah football season after a Sept. 11 loss at BYU was apparently greatly exaggerated.

In the face of tragedy, this Utes season is, in fact, thriving as they take the Pac-12 South lead to Corvallis on Saturday to face Pac-12 North co-leader Oregon State (5:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). Utah’s schedule appears pretty favorable in its pursuit of a South Division title, but first things first this weekend in the Pacific Northwest.

We will get to some football matters, but first up in this Utah Utes mailbag, let’s address a basketball matter that needs to really stop being asked.

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 jnewman@sltrib.com, or even leave a comment at the bottom of this story.

Q: “I saw a tweet that said there would be no Night with the Runnin’ Utes this year. If so, why not, considering the new coach & roster?” -- @UnholiestJedi

A: For those unaware, Night With the Runnin’ Utes is a late-October intrasquad scrimmage at the Huntsman Center, which generally serves as the program’s public debut roughly two weeks ahead of the regular-season opener. I have never covered Night With the Runnin’ Utes, but my understanding is there is usually some fan interaction — high-fives, autographs, selfies and whatnot.

Utah’s Nov. 4 exhibition against Division II Westminster is essentially taking the place of Night With the Runnin’ Utes, just without that moniker attached to it. With COVID-19 still prevalent, there won’t’ be a chance for fan interaction. Sure, that end of things is probably a negative for children, or overzealous adults, but it’s a good safety measure to eliminate that.

From a basketball perspective, an exhibition against Westminster is going to produce a better product compared to an intrasquad scrimmage. You’re getting true game conditions, and probably a better idea of what the lineup looks like with the opener against Abilene Christian coming five days later.

Also, the Westminster game will be general admission seating and free. Free. Fans can walk into the Huntsman Center to watch a Power Five basketball team for free.

Free. I don’t want to hear any complaining about something that is free.


Free basketball.

Q: “Has the bad moon completely risen, or is it still rising? I’ll show myself out. I hate myself.” -- @SaltLakeJake

A: I know Jake reads this thing regularly, so let me say: Jake, this is brutal.

The bad moon has not completely risen, but it’s close. It is almost at its peak, but an errant throw or three in the first half vs. Arizona State stalled its progress. That second half, though? That second half may have been the bad moon fully risen. We have yet to see a four-quarter, fully-risen bad moon.

OK, I don’t hate this schtick.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) celebrates the win with the team as the University of Utah hosts the Arizona Sun Devils in Pac-12 action at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Oct. 10, 2021.

Q: “What are the best potential buddy cop show duos on this Utah football team, and what would those shows be called? Britain Covey & Devin Lloyd? Bam Olaseni & Clark Phillips III? Cam Rising & Cole Fotheringham?” -- @justincraig40

A: Covey-Lloyd is absolutely the No. 1 answer for one very specific reason. Covey is 5-foot-8, 170 pounds and very unassuming, even in pads, while Lloyd has the best ‘first off the bus’ physique on the roster.

I need Covey to be interrogating a perp, the perp not cooperating, followed by Lloyd walking in and just staring at the guy until he cracks. Their case clearance rate would be near 100%.

Name of the show: Fire & Ice, which alone guarantees the pilot does not get picked up.

Between the hair, the smile, and the general laidback Southern California demeanor, Rising would need someone the complete opposite to be his partner. I don’t know, a lot of these players strike me as laidback, but can we cast Olaseni, given he is Rising’s left tackle?

Name of the show: The Blind Side.

Yikes. Next question.

Q: “I think College GameDay whiffed on OSU vs Utah. Cal is the only Pac-12 school to never host. What do you think would get College GameDay there?” -- @iampangean

A: Corvallis will host a big Pac-12 game on a day when the national landscape is light. But it’s hard to quibble with GameDay’s choice, given the selection is the No. 10 team in the country, Oregon, playing at a Pac-12 South contender, UCLA.

As for Cal, two things have to happen for GameDay to show up in Berkeley. One, the Golden Bears have to be hosting a game of major consequence, which hasn’t happened in eons.

In 2006, No. 16 Cal hosted (and beat) No. 11 Oregon, but that’s not enough for GameDay. Two years prior, No. 7 Cal was a part of GameDay vs. No. 1 USC, but the game was in Los Angeles. The last time Cal hosted a game that felt worthy of GameDay was Oct. 19, 1991. Ranked seventh, it lost to No. 3 and eventual co-national champion Washington. In 1991, GameDay was still two years away from debuting.

Two, not only does there need to be a game of major consequence in Berkeley, but the national schedule needs to be light because if it’s a choice between a monstrous Pac-12 game and a monstrous game in another Power Five conference, the Pac-12 is not going to win that battle.

Q: “Why aren’t the Utes playing on ESPN or FS1 at 7 p.m. PST on Saturday? There are ZERO college football games at 7 p.m. PST which is weird. Some weeks, there are three or four at that time.” -- @austio311

A: I agree, having zero games kick off at 7 p.m. PST on Saturday does strike me as a bit odd, but keep in mind that a potential ALCS Game 7 would be played on Saturday night. Maybe media partners are trying to stay out of the way of the Red Sox and Astros?

Q: “What is your favorite season and why is it fall? How unsatisfied are you with the length of 2021′s fall?” -- @801Utes

A: My favorite season is basketball.

If we’re talking about weather and general living, my seasons are ranked as follows: Spring, fall, summer, getting my foot driven over, then winter. I hate winter. I’m living in the wrong state.

As for fall in 2021, I think we got about three fall-like days, maybe four, and are now seemingly nosediving into winter.

I don’t like that. Not even a little.

Q: “Coach Whittingham has run a good program, but the continued lackluster seasons are bound to make it difficult to bring in top-level recruits. The media was fawning over a QB transfer from Baylor as though he was the answer. I honestly think it’s time for a whole [sic] new coaching staff for the Utes. An up-and-coming coach from Division I-AA , or something like that. The Pac-12 is wide open this season. He’s had 11 years, time to reload at the head coach position. Thoughts?” -- Emailer Jeffery

A: For context, this email came in last week before the Arizona State game but not in time for last week’s mailbag, which followed the USC win.

I’m not even sure where to start. I think lackluster is a bit much. There have been some clunker seasons since entering the Pac-12, yes, but Utah is at the point now where it is contending for a South Division title every year. That’s not really up for debate. The Utes have shared or won the South outright three times since 2015 and are in position to enter November challenging for another division title.

I don’t speak for the rest of the media, but how would you have preferred I covered Brewer? He had 9,700 passing yards, a Big 12 championship game appearance and a Sugar Bowl appearance at Baylor. Rising was hurt, his return in time for camp was not guaranteed, and Whittingham had nothing but very positive things to say about Brewer for eight months.

Whittingham is not getting fired, but he will be 62-years old next month, so who knows how many more years he wants to coach. To your point of “an up-and-coming coach from Division I-AA, or something like that,” I can already sense this is going to be a dumpster fire of an argument among fans. An up-and-coming guy vs. promote Morgan Scalley vs. go outside the family and spend some money, etc. I’m not looking forward to it.