TribUte newsletter: The Runnin’ Utes need a win at Oregon

Plus: Athletic department financials release and a season-ticket price hike.

Utah center Branden Carlson (35) celebrates after a teammate scored a 3-point basket against Washington State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Dana Altman owns the University of Utah men’s basketball program. That is not in question.

The Runnin’ Utes are 2-22 against the University of Oregon since becoming a Pac-12 member a little over a decade ago. That mark includes 10 straight losses to the Ducks dating back to a win in Eugene on Dec. 29, 2017. I’m also well aware that Utah let a big opportunity slip away on Jan. 7 at the Huntsman Center when a flailing Ducks team won, 70-60.

Well, here comes another big opportunity. Utah will walk into Matthew Knight Arena on Saturday night winners of three straight, with a NET in the low-to-mid 40s and in need of a Quadrant 1 win. From a metrics standpoint, these Utes are still without a bad loss, but they need some better wins to get back onto the bubble.

Saturday night is not a must-win for Utah, but it would drastically help the cause. If the Utes win, they’re coming home at 16-7 overall and 9-3 in the Pac-12, with games they should win against Stanford and Cal coming next weekend. With a win on Saturday, the prospect of being 18-7 and 11-3 with a late-season gauntlet still looming becomes much more real, as does the ability to hop over to the correct side of the bubble.

It’s time for Utah to get over this Oregon thing, at least for one night. It’s time for Utah to out-defend and outrebound the Ducks, neither of which were accomplished on Jan. 7 in the first meeting. The Utes need to show up and outplay what has not been a quintessential Altman team.

Oregon was banged up early, including during brutal losses to UC Irvine and Utah Valley. Thursday night’s grind-it-out win over Colorado notwithstanding, lately, the Ducks’ effort has been in question, specifically in another brutal loss last weekend against lowly Stanford.

This is not Tyler Dorsey-and-Dillon Brooks Oregon hammering Utah in the 2016 Pac-12 Tournament, nor is it Payton Pritchard and Louis King doing the same to the Utes several years later. This particular Oregon team is susceptible to losing to anyone on any given night if it doesn’t show up, so why not Utah?

Yeah, for once against Oregon, with everything still to play for, why not these Utes?

Other things on my mind

• The athletic department’s financial statement provided to the NCAA for fiscal 2022 was released this week. I hope to do a deeper dive on some particulars next week, but after a cursory look at the document, things appear back to normal after an unorthodox fiscal 2021, which included truncated, fanless 2020 football and 2020-21 basketball seasons thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bottom line, Utah is reporting $115,719,266 in revenues against $111,880,434, putting the athletic department in the black to the tune of $3.84 million. Both nine-figure totals for revenue and expenses are athletic department records.

• There are there reasonable options for Pac-12 Coach of the Year at the moment. With nine, and in some cases, 10 games to go in the regular season, one is Bobby Hurley, another is Andy Enfield, and the other is Craig Smith.

Utah football season ticket renewals opened up this week with a price increase averaging 15% across the board. To get to a 15% average, that means some people are paying more than that. The biggest number a current season-ticket holder brought to me was a 27% increase.

Some people are upset about this, and truthfully, I’m empathetic to those that have to make hard choices about what to do with their tickets for 2023, but here’s brass tacks: Rice-Eccles Stadium is going to be full for all seven home games in 2023, because if someone has to give up their tickets, the waiting list is still thought to be in the thousands. Demand has been way up for several years, and that’s not changing any time soon.

The place has sold out 76 consecutive times, and by the time next season ends, that number will be at 83.

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