Utah Utes' sports move to Pac-12 is under way

Hill knows moving to the Pac-12 will take strategic planning

Published: Saturday, April 23 2011 8:48 p.m. MDT

In examining the big picture, Hill said they've looked at each sport and examined the revenue sources that have to grow. Determining how to increase such things, as well as identifying strengths and weaknesses were also discussed.

The general challenge, he continued, is to look at all 18 sports Utah offers and try to make sure as many as possible will be immediately competitive in the Pac-12.

A pecking order was developed.

"What we don't want to do is just spread everything equally and not invest in what our top successes can be," Hill said. "So the ice hockey team doesn't get the same percentage increase as the football team."

Hill used ice hockey, a club sport at Utah, to explain the situation to avoid offending one of the sanctioned programs.

"We want to make sure we invest in line with our priorities — knowing that we want to move everybody to be successful and that may take more time," he said.

It's no secret that football is the top revenue producer. Construction of a new $16 million football facility, which will house state-of-the-art sports medicine and athletic training space, a multipurpose dining hall, a team locker room, offices, equipment storage, a player lounge, a team auditorium, a Hall of Fame and meeting rooms with enhanced video capabilities, is set to begin in December. Donor dollars are expected to cover the entire cost. Approximately 35 percent of the funds have already been raised.

"Going into the Pac-12, it's an all-out arms race," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "Everybody is building the bigger and better buildings, and we've got to keep up with everybody."

The football facility, Hill noted, is huge as the Utes compete against Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State for recruits and victories.

Hill noted that the first goal in football is to win the division.

"Some years you get there, some you don't. But we want to be in the mix," Hill said. "We don't have all the resources to get their yet. Our football center is going to get done, and that's going to help."

In no particular order, Hill pointed out other facility needs. The list includes a new softball field, outdoor tennis courts and improved basketball practice facilities.

That's not to say, however, that the Utah athletic program is in dire need of major upgrades.

"We have stuff in place, so I don't want to act like woe is us. We're not going in as a little brother," Hill said. "There are things that we are really good at already and have the resources ready. But there are other areas that we've got to work on."

The firing of Jim Boylen and the hiring of Larry Krystkowiak underscores a sense of urgency with the men's basketball program. Hill points out that Utah has the third-most number of NCAA Tournament appearances in the Pac-12, trailing only UCLA and Arizona.

"We have a chance to really compete," Hill said of the Utes' situation.

Same goes, he continued, of the women's basketball program. Over the past decade, only Stanford has a higher RPI than Utah in the soon-to-be expanded league.

Women's gymnastics is another program primed to compete at a high level in the Pac-12.

New expectations

Membership in the "Conference of Champions" will likely lead to a different mindset.

"Our goal in the Mountain West is to compete and win our fair share of league championships, get to the NCAA tournament and do well," Hill said. "Now I think the goal is to get into the NCAA tournament, which is the same, maybe get a better seed and try to win some games."

Women's volleyball, for example, is entering a league that sent eight teams to last year's NCAA tourney.

If you're winning a Pac-12 championship, Hill said, then you're probably winning a national title as well.

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