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June 16, 2010
A whole new ball game
With the drama finally over and the Utes having formally accepted an invitation to play in the PAC 12 conference, it's time to explore the implications of the invite. UteZone.com examines what inclusion in the PAC 12 conference means for recruiting and how future Utah football teams will be built going into the next decade.
The BCS Bump
After historic BCS runs in 2004 and 2008, the Utes experienced phenomenally successful recruiting classes the following year, in what has been dubbed "the BCS bump." The Utes' success on the field opened up doors to Utah coaches that had never been accessible before and high profile recruits such as John Cullen, Terrell Reese, Kenneth Scott, V.J. Fehoko and Latu Heimuli have been paying attention. This is evidenced by the steady climb in quality recruiting classes since 2004.
The bump from being added to an AQ conference is expected to be exponentially larger than any previous BCS bump. In the past, the Utes have lost out on a long list of talented recruits (such as Dennis Dixon and Juron Criner who expressed interest in playing for Utah, but specifically told coaches that they wanted to play in a BCS conference. PAC 12 inclusion eliminates the BCS problem and gives Utah coaches the ability to recruit against other top programs on a more level playing field.
With continued success on the field, Utah coaches should also be able to diminish some of the "near-miss" recruiting losses, where they narrowly missed out on players who gave an edge to programs that were included in BCS conferences (such as Keenan Graham and Xavier Su'a Filo in 2009).
The Texas Question
Many have questioned whether inclusion in the PAC 12 will hinder Utah's ability to recruit the state of Texas, since they no longer have a conference partner in the state. We expect to see an additional recruiting bump in Texas, much like there will be in California and Arizona. Several PAC 12 schools - especially Arizona and Colorado - actively recruit the state and have been able to find success. Texas will continue to be an area of emphasis for the Utah coaching staff, who have developed deep ties with high school coaches in the area.
The Team Down South
With inclusion to the PAC 12, recruiting battles with in-state rival BYU are expected to become more interesting. Although the Utes don't compete regularly with BYU for every recruit, PAC 12 inclusion will certainly make many top-rated in-state prospects that would normally be considered locks for BYU think twice about whether to choose the Cougars over the Utes. One immediate recruiting battle that will be especially interesting will be over four star lineman Ryker Mathews of American Fork. Matthews is reportedly torn between playing for the Utes and Cougars, and this news could very well be a big factor in his decision.