SALT LAKE CITY — When Utah released its 2011-12 men's basketball schedule last week, it didn't include a game with Utah State — ending a run of annual meetings between the two in-state rivals that dates back to the 1944-45 season.
The decision to interrupt the long-running series, which has been played 223 times (113 in Salt Lake City and 110 in Logan) since 1908-09, came from the red corner.
Utah athletics director Chris Hill noted that the contract with USU was up and he felt it was a good time to assess the situation with the Utes moving into the Pac-12. Hill added that they're in the process of deciding what to do in the future and that finding a date to play this season in the Huntsman Center was a challenge.
"Utah State is obviously an excellent program but we've got to decide what's best for us," he said while noting several variables that have come into play.
For starters, the Utes now have two more league games than in the past, and that has made the schedule even more enhanced. Hill wants to speak with other Pac-12 schools to learn how many nonconference road games they play and how they build their RPI.
Hill acknowledged he hasn't spoken with USU athletics director Scott Barnes for a while.
"I think the bottom line is we're going to evaluate," Hill said. "We want to make sure we're doing the best for our program in terms of having enough really good games to help build our RPI, but at the same time be able to develop our team."
Utah leads the all-time series with USU by a 130-93 margin. The Aggies, however, won last year's game 79-62 in the Spectrum.
Could it have been the last meeting between the rivals in Logan?
"That's a thing we have to assess, too. That's something we have to decide," Hill said. "Everybody thinks it's over forever, and we haven't determined that."
And yes, Hill emphasized, they're very conscious of the history between the schools and the importance of the rivalry to fans.
As such, he's floated an idea with Utah Jazz officials and BYU athletics director Tom Holmoe about bringing the Utes, Cougars, Aggies and Weber State together at EnergySolutions Arena to start each season in an effort to build some excitement and allow the teams to play each other. The Utes are contractually committed to playing at Weber State in 2011, but there is no agreement between the Wildcats and Utes beyond this year.
Utah and USU are in the midst of a two-year hiatus in football, marking just the 10th and 11th times since 1900 that the teams didn't square off on the gridiron.
NEW ADDITION: Viewmont's Blake Wilkinson, a 6-foot-7 post player who earned first-team all-state honors after leading the Vikings to their first region title since 1996, has committed to the University of Utah. Wilkinson will join the Runnin' Utes as a walk-on this season before serving an LDS Church mission. He averaged 18.7 points, seven rebounds and 1.73 steals as a senior and 14.1 points 6.7 rebounds and 1.45 steals as a junior.
Wilkinson is the second player to join new coach Larry Krystkowiak's squad as a walk-on. Corbin Green, the younger brother of former Ute Shaun Green, joined the team after transferring from Snow College. The 6-foot-5 guard played his high school ball at Olympus.
The Utes are looking to add another walk-on or two to the mix before the season begins. They currently have 12 players under scholarship, plus one available slot.
PAC-12 CELEBRATION: Utah's July 1 celebration on the south lawn of the state Capitol will include comments from Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. He'll join Hill, Congressman Jim Matheson and Lt. Governor Greg Bell as speakers at the event commemorating the Utes' membership in the Pac-12, which becomes official that day. The celebration begins at noon and will include the Utah Marching Band and spirit teams. Utah student-athletes and coaches will also be in attendance.
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