Utah Utes mailbag: Cam Rising’s springs, Huntsman Center’s needs and Utah’s baseball stadium

Tribune reporter Josh Newman answers your questions about University of Utah athletics.

(Hunter Dyke | Utah Athletics) Utah Utes football head coach Kyle Whittingham, right, watches quarterback Cam Rising (7) during the first day of fall camp in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.

I learned a very valuable lesson early in my career in terms of covering football, regardless of its high school, college, or the NFL.

When in doubt, write about the quarterback, because no matter what, there’s always interest in the quarterback.

We’re going to start this Utes mailbag right there.

Do you have a question for Utes beat reporter Josh Newman? Send it to him via a tweet, direct message him on Twitter, email him at jnewman@sltrib.com, or leave it in the comments section at the end of this article and he will answer them in his weekly mailbag.

Q: “Has Cam Rising ever had a spring with Utah? By my count, no. COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, injuries in 2021, 2022, and 2023 injury. How much has this hurt his trajectory?” — @redslc1012

A: Rising has had a bit of an unorthodox career at Utah, but it’s not entirely accurate to say he’s never had a spring camp.

2020: Three spring practices before COVID-19 shut the world down.

2021: None while rehabbing injured shoulder.

2022: Healthy participant, played one series in spring game.

2023: None while rehabbing torn ACL

That amount of time on the shelf has to have some effect on your trajectory, but I don’t think anyone could say it’s been a problem given his resume. As for what his future NFL Draft stock may be, I think the bigger problem in terms of trajectory is Rising has had two major injuries, and at least one documented concussion in his time at Utah. That’ll be a thing as he pursues a professional career after the 2023 season.

While we’re here, one more unorthodox factor as it pertains to Rising: He will leave Utah having never taken a snap against BYU, which seems impossible given he will have played in 40-ish games assuming good health this fall.

Rising was ineligible in 2019, the 2020 game was canceled due to the pandemic, Charlie Brewer started and played the entire 2021 game, the Utes and Cougars did not play in 2022, and will not play in 2023.

I’m fascinated by that. Rising may go down as Utah’s greatest quarterback, but will have never faced the archrival.

Q: “Something I’ve been thinking about for a while. When do we discuss upgrades at the Huntsman Center? Better floor seating? Chairs? Bathrooms? I won’t say curtains because I know how you feel.” — @RedSoxRooskie

A: First, I’ve gotten a fair number of inquiries in recent months from people wondering if a new basketball arena would ever be built. A chunk of those inquiries wondered if that potential new building would be built off campus, potentially somewhere downtown.

No, and no.

The Huntsman Center isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but I think we can all agree parts of it are certainly outdated and in need of a facelift. That said, and I may be in the minority here, but the venerable, underrated college basketball cathedral is aging gracefully, and I think massive changes will strip it of its soul.

I’ll now offer a quote from Utah athletic director Mark Harlan, given to The Salt Lake Tribune in 2019 as the Huntsman Center was turning 50.

“This is an amazing building. The bones are solid. … When you have something as special as the Huntsman Center, you’ve got to keep it that way. This building is special to the University of Utah, it’s special to the Huntsman family, and the future of our department is going to be largely dependent on the future of this facility, going forward.”

As far as I know, there is nothing imminent in terms of upgrading the Huntsman Center, and it’s hard to zero in on when such a project may take place.

Utah is in the middle of trying to get a shovel in the ground to get a new indoor football practice facility built, for which it is looking to raise $62 million for the approved bonding via the legislature. Building an on-campus baseball stadium is now on the docket at a cost of $35 million, most of which will come from donations. I don’t know that you’re going back to the top end of your donor base, or back to the legislature asking for more money right away.

Does the Huntsman Center need some updating? Yes. Is it getting any time soon? It feels unlikely.

Q: “Thoughts on having QBs live/full contact vs. not in spring game? I tend to believe that had Charlie Brewer been live in Spring 2021 we ‘might’ not have seen him as fall day 1 starter, but you obviously don’t want QBs getting injured either.” — @justincraig40

A: In the spring game specifically, I would absolutely not have my quarterbacks live and taking full contact. No way. By the time the spring game comes, you have seen what you need to see during the previous 14 practices, which in the case of Utah would have included two previous live scrimmages. The spring game is a dog-and-pony show to get the fan base energized for actual, real football in four months.

The only case to be made in my mind to have your QBs live for the spring game is if you’re in the middle of a QB1 competition, but even that doesn’t make a ton of sense.

Your Brewer notion is interesting. As you may remember, the Baylor transfer went 15-for-15 for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the 2021 spring game, fueling the assumed certainty that he would eventually win the starting job later that summer, which he did. Remember, the 2021 spring game did not include Rising, who was rehabbing his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder.

I don’t remember every last detail of that spring game, but I do remember Brewer connecting on a couple of throws that, if he were live, absolutely would have instead been sacks, so the whole thing needed to be taken with a grain of salt.

Interesting, though, because even if Brewer had been live that day and looked worse than he did, you still didn’t quite know at that point what you were going to get out of Rising or how ready he was going to be by fall camp.

In hindsight, that 2021 springtime, the ensuing fall camp, and the first month of that 2021 season were all a very weird time for the program and anyone covering it.

Q: “Has Utah announced anything around the size (capacity, etc.) of the baseball stadium they want?” — @MikeySLC

A: The proposal offered to the Board of Trustees last week calls for 1,200 seats, a number that may seem small, but makes perfect sense given that Utah, according to that proposal, averages 320 fans per game at Smith’s Ballpark.

Even if you just double that 320 to 640 inside a 1,200-seat stadium, it’s not going to feel cavernous, and either way, a facility that small should at least feel like a real home-field advantage.

Invariably, there are going to be some who believe a Pac-12 program should not have a baseball stadium comparable in size to places like Loyola Marymount and Sacramento State, both of whom have 1,200-seat facilities.

Respectfully, those people are wrong. Utah is doing the right thing by not trying to overdo capacity.

Q: “If there was an opossum taking up residence in the Rice-Eccles press box, and for some reason Josh Newman was tasked with eradicating the unwanted guest, how would you take care of the problem?” — @utedaddy

A: Poor Oakland Coliseum. Not only was that place already a toilet, but now the visiting broadcast team can’t even use the booth there because an opossum is wreaking havoc.

Listen, I’m a shirt-and-tie guy in the press box on game day, so the last thing I’m doing is hand-to-hand combat with an opossum as I’m trying to watch warmups.

This is easy. If I’m in charge of this situation, I am delegating the responsibility to a visiting beat writer of my choosing. If said visiting beat writer doesn’t get rid of the opossum by the time warmups are over, they don’t get to eat dinner.

Sorry, hope you packed something. At least I’m still letting you cover the game.

Q: “I don’t think this is true,* but might be worth some discussion: If you look at WBB, gymnastics, & softball, is it fair to say Utah’s women’s sports are outperforming the men’s?

“Skiing is coed and football, men’s tennis, & lacrosse have done/doing just fine.” — @VegasUte

A: That’s, uh, quite an asterisk you slapped on there.

I was going to dive into this, but then thought better of it. Why do we have to discuss the success of women’s sports at Utah right now by comparing it to men’s sports? Who cares? What purpose does that serve?

Gymnastics just finished third at NCAAs, softball is ranked in the top 25 and just swept No. 5 Stanford over the weekend, track and field is ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 1982.

That’s all pretty good. Women’s sports are thriving at Utah.

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.