LOGAN — Aggie fans, for the most part, welcomed the news of Utah moving onward and upward to the Pac-10 with excitement.
Why? Because if ever there was an opportunity for Utah State to join BYU in a conference, it might be now.
But Aggie athletic director Scott Barnes said that is far from a likely occurrence, though not an impossibility.
"Right now, our focus is working on keeping the WAC as strong as possible," Barnes said Wednesday shortly after the Utes' move to the Pac-10 became a certainty. "The WAC has had some good years recently, and we want to continue to focus on carrying that forward."
Of course, the loss of Boise State to the MWC hurts the WAC's football future, and Barnes acknowledged as much.
"As I've said, losing Boise State was an untimely punch to the stomach, but no more than that," Barnes said. "It's not a knock-down punch. We'll survive this."
Another impact of Utah's departure to the Pac-10 is the future of one of America's longest-running rivalries. With the Utes having as many as nine conference games and an annual meeting with BYU, there may not be room for the Aggies in many future schedules.
"One of the concerns that all of us have with realignment is protecting rivalry games," Barnes said. "Certainly, it is important to us, and we will work to make sure we continue to play Utah in football in the future."
Ideally, for Utah State fans, following Boise State to the MWC would be a dream come true. But with virtually no additional television sets to offer the MWC — BYU already provides the Utah market to the MWC — USU doesn't have a lot to offer.
Still, there has been some contact between USU president Stan Albrecht and administration at MWC offices and schools, a source at USU said.
"I know President Albrecht was on the phone with people at BYU (Wednesday) morning, talking about conference expansion," the source said. "I don't know who initiated the contact, but I know there has been outreach."
Barnes did say the WAC has numerous options to consider and discuss regarding the league's future. Those include inviting additional schools — the most frequently mentioned include Montana, Portland State and UC Davis — or remaining as an eight-school conference.
"We are committed to doing everything we can to strengthen the WAC as long as we are members of the conference," Barnes said.
Reaction to Utah's move in Boise is one of nonsurprise. Many Bronco followers expected such a move but agree a MWC without the Utes is not as close to BCS automatic qualifying status as it was when BSU agreed to join the league.
Andersen hopeful Utah St.-Utah rivalry will continue
Utah State coach Gary Andersen, who was a longtime Utah assistant and a former player, is hopeful the Utes' departure to the Pac-10 won't bring an end to the instate rivalry.
"We definitely want to keep the game going," he said while noting that all of USU's teams would like to crossover and continue to play Utah. "It's a great game for us. Now it's an opportunity to play an instate rival and an opportunity to play a Pac-10 team. That's big for us. So we sure hope that stays on our schedule."
As far as football is concerned, Andersen noted that the Utes are now "instantly in the game now" when it comes to recruiting. Even so, he added that the program's success the last couple of years won't make it as big of a difference as it would be for some non-BCS schools.55 comments on this story
"I think what it will do is give them an opportunity to get more kids on trips, especially in Southern California because many of those kids have a dream of wanting to play in the Pac-10," Andersen said.
The move from the Mountain West Conference is expected to pay other dividends as well.
"It's great for the fans," Andersen said while pointing out that the Utes will get a full slate of Pac-10 opponents and not just the one or two that have been on the schedule in recent years.
"It's definitely going to be a step up for them," he explained. "... It's a great opportunity."