Mike Terry, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Simply put, it was "a great day to be a Ute."
That's how University of Utah athletics director Chris Hill and school president Michael Young described Thursday's official announcement that the Utes will be joining the Pacific-10 Conference. They'll make the move from the Mountain West Conference in 2011.
"We are thrilled and delighted with this invitation," Young said at a press conference at Rice-Eccles Stadium. "This is a tremendous thing for the University of Utah."
Young later signed the necessary documents for league membership and handed them to Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott.
"I am thrilled to have the opportunity to sign this on behalf of the university," he said. "There really is an enormous amount of thanks to go around and just to reiterate we have great supporters, community leaders, coaches, student-athletes. Today is your day. It truly is."
A large crowd of fans expressed then their support with a roar of applause and cheers.
Scott told the gathering he was overwhelmed by the tremendous reception and thanked everyone.
"I am thrilled to have the honor on behalf of the 10 presidents in the conference to offer an official welcome to the University of Utah," Scott said after congratulating all who made it possible for the Utes to join the league. "This is truly a landmark occasion."
Utah is the 12th member of the expanded conference, joining Big 12 defector Colorado as the first newcomers to the Pac-10 since Arizona and Arizona State were added in 1978.
California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State comprise the rest of the conference.
"The addition of the University of Utah as the conference's 12th member continues to strengthen the Pac-10's goals of becoming the country's leader in college athletics," Scott said. "The University of Utah is a great academic and athletic fit, and we are thrilled to welcome them to the Pac-10."
The feeling is quite mutual.
"I have no doubt that, speaking for the entire University of Utah family, we could not be more pleased to accept the invitation to join the Pac-10," Young said. "The University of Utah will be a great contributor to an already great conference and this will be tremendous both academically and athletically for the university."
Hill vowed the U. would make the most of its new surroundings.
"All of us have worked really, really hard every day to have this invitation and this wonderful opportunity," he said. "I can tell you that we're going to work hard every day to make the Pac-10 proud when we're a member."
Utah's departure will follow one more year of competition in the Mountain West Conference. The Utes were founding members of the league in 1999, joining Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV and Wyoming. TCU joined the MWC in 2005, and Boise State will be added in 2011.
Young and Hill both expressed their support and respect for the MWC.
"We have very much enjoyed playing in the Mountain West Conference as one of the charter members. It has been a great conference for us to grow, develop and thrive," Young said. "The competition has been wonderful and the cooperation among the schools has really been extraordinary."
Young added that it's been a privilege for Utah to be in the league and the Utes are looking forward to one more year of membership.
"We want to thank them for being such a great partner," he said.
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