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 8:00 p.m. MDT

Utah will compete for top honors, but finishing fourth or fifth in the regular season could still lead to a better NCAA draw than winning the MWC.

Prevailing at the conference level is something they'll always strive for, but doing well nationally has always been a goal.

"The challenge is to set some realistic expectations," said Hill, who acknowledged it's really, really hard because every coach wants to win every game.

Does he tell the football team not to shoot for the Rose Bowl every year? What about the other sports?

Case in point, the Utah women's swim team. Stanford has won 25 consecutive conference championships.

"If our goal is to win the women's swim championship, that's not going to be a good goal," said Hill, who noted that future recruiting may focus on athletes who specialize in a smaller number of events and win points nationally.

Each sport is different and one size does not fit all.

Bigger budget

To "get in the game," Hill plans to increase Utah's $33 million annual budget. The minimum effort he is calling for is an additional $10 million per year.

Such funding, he said, can be generated through existing resources. Avenues like merchandise sales, sponsorships, tickets, radio and TV rights and fundraising are among the things expected to increase naturally through Pac-12 membership.

"The brand is different," Hill said. "And with that comes areas of growth."

Assured of playing a football game at UCLA or USC each year, Utah has increased fundraising efforts in Los Angeles and other alumni bases throughout the conference.

On a recent visit to southern California, Hill let eager boosters know it's time to invest.

"Our resources will grow and that will allow us to invest more in our sports," he said. "But it's all relative because the Pac-12 is already invested in those sports."

While easing into future television money, there are some areas that Utah is short on. Recruiting budgets, for one, is something that needs to be boosted up in general.

Other costs aren't as obvious. To keep up with the rest of the conference, the Utes need to add an additional trainer, academic advisor and compliance person. Entry level hires include a graduate assistant for strength and conditioning. Taking care of the student-athletes, Hill explained, is obviously important.

"We've got to do that because that's what is right and we've got to do it because we need to provide the support that other schools that we're competing against do," he said. "If all the other schools have a trainer for women's soccer and we have a (graduate assistant) that's not the right thing to do. Plus, it's a disadvantage recruiting."

Team travel can have the same implications.

"When you compete against other schools you want to make sure you travel in a competitive way," said Hill, who noted that the Utah baseball team will no longer travel in vans. The Utes will be using busses on the road.

Basketball travel costs may also increase since the Pac-12 is big on players not missing class. Charter flights could become the norm.

There are plenty of small things, across the board for all sports, that may require upgrades.

On the bigger end, coaching salaries need to remain competitive.

"If we had the whole $10 million gap closed right now, we could probably do more for everybody," Hill said. "We're going to start to close that gap this year and that's why we'll invest in line with our priorities."

The bottom line

Utah's existing athletic department expenditure/revenue budget is currently $5 million per year below that of Washington State, the lowest of the schools now in the Pac-10.

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