Utah charts new course with Big 12 move

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is back together with BYU, and the Utes think they are poised for a successful transition to the Big 12 Conference.

Utah will compete in the Big 12 in all sports starting in 2024 after accepting an invitation to join the league on Friday. Arizona and Arizona State also accepted Big 12 invitations on the same day. The three schools followed Colorado, which announced a return to the league it helped found in 1996 in late July. The Buffaloes originally left the Big 12 for the Pac-12 in 2010, joining that league with the Utes in 2011.

Their move came after Oregon and Washington bolted for the Big Ten earlier in the day.

This isn’t Utah’s first move into a power conference. But unlike when it left the Mountain West Conference to join the Pac-12, the Utes expect to be competitive from day one in the Big 12.

“We want to get in there and win and win right away,” Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said Monday. “We have no reason to believe that we can’t.”

Failure to land a suitable media rights deal led to Utah and other Pac-12 schools looking for new homes. Commissioner George Kliavkoff presented a deal with Apple that had revenue projections based heavily on reaching subscription benchmarks, and it included an opt-out clause after only two or three years.

Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah.

Utah felt the streaming-only media deal with the potential for lower revenue than what other power conferences offered was too risky.

“We were plugging numbers and looking at everything like everyone else was,” Harlan said. “You got to have a collective group to move forward at the end of the day. It ended where it was.”

Utah will receive a full share of the $31.7 million each Big 12 school expects to earn from the league’s media deal starting in 2025. The Utes also enter a league that’s arguably the toughest men’s basketball conference from top to bottom, and one that is positioning itself to be the No. 3 FBS conference behind the Big Ten and the SEC.

“I wouldn’t bet against the Big 12,” Utah President Taylor Randall said. “That’s what makes us so excited to be there.”

Joining the Big 12 also puts Utah and BYU in the same conference for the first time since 2010 when both schools played in the Mountain West. It means The Holy War — one of the nation’s most intense college football rivalries — will highlight annual Big 12 conference schedules.

The schools last met in 2021 when BYU won 26-17 to snap a nine-game losing streak in a series that started in 1896.

“For me, it’s always been fun,” Randall said. “We’re looking forward to that. We’ve appreciated the way we’ve worked together (with BYU) over the years when we’ve not been in the same conference. We’re certainly looking forward to the years where we will be.”

Beyond BYU, Utah also has familiarity and rivalries with Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, and TCU to build on in the Big 12.

Switching conferences in 2024 will create a short-term dilemma for nonconference scheduling in football. Future scheduled games with BYU, Baylor, and Houston will be folded into league play. As a result, Utah needs to fill two out of three nonconference slots in 2024, 2025, 2026, and 2027.



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