Utes experienced growing pains in first year of Pac-12 competition

By Dirk Facer

Deseret News

Published: Saturday, June 30 2012 10:06 p.m. MDT

Utah's swimming and diving teams finished in the middle of the Pac-12 pack last season.

Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It's now been a year since the University of Utah has officially been part of the Pac-12. Utah athletics director Chris Hill compared the passing of time to the blinking of his eyes. Life outside the Mountain West Conference is pretty fast and moves very quickly.

Even so, Hill said the move was as exciting and competitive as he thought it would be.

Although there are growing pains as the Utes work to upgrade facilities and recruiting to better compete at the highest level of college athletics, Hill noted the university is extremely comfortable being part of the Pac-12 and its vision.

The first year, though, proved to be a mixed bag of success.

"Some teams did well and some teams did not do as well as we had hoped," Hill said. "But we also know that some have a bigger hill to climb than others. So we're just trying to build the foundation and recruit Pac-12 student-athletes."

Utah didn't win any conference championships; however, there were some highlights. The Utes were one of just two Pac-12 football teams to win a bowl game and the women's tennis team made school history by reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time.

"I think there were times that we did really well and belonged," Hill said. "But there are times that were tough for us, but it was tough for a lot of people. You look at some of the teams that do so well nationally."

It's a different world, no doubt.

A look at how Utah fared in its inaugural year in the Pac-12:

Men's teams

Baseball: The Utes (14-42 overall) finished 11th with a 7-23 record in Pac-12 play.

Basketball: Utah (6-25 overall) went 3-15 in conference games and was ousted by Colorado in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament.

Football: Went 4-5 in Pac-12 play, finishing tied for third in the South Division. The Utes defeated Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl to wrap things up with an 8-5 overall record.

Golf: The Utes finished 12th at the conference tournament.

Swimming and diving: Utah (6-6 overall) went 1-3 in Pac-12 competition and 6-6 overall. Placed fifth at the Pac-12 meet and had two divers combine for three top-25 finishes at the NCAA Zone competition.

Tennis: Ousted in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament after finishing seventh in the regular season. The Utes (13-12 overall) went 1-6 in conference play.

Women's teams

Basketball: The Utes (16-16 overall) completed their first Pac-12 campaign in a tie for seventh at 8-10. They were eliminated by Colorado in the first round of the conference tournament.

Cross country: Utah was eighth in the regular season. Amanda Mergaert finished 84th at the NCAA finals.

Gymnastics: Placed second in Pac-12 competition (regular season and conference meet). Finished fifth at the NCAA meet.

Soccer: The Utes (10-9-1 overall) finished fifth in the Pac-12 with a 6-5 conference mark. They did not make it to postseason play.

Softball: A 28-28 overall record doesn't tell the story here. The Utes struggled mightily in Pac-12 play, going 2-22.

Swimming and diving: Utah (6-5 overall) posted a 2-4 mark in Pac-12 competition and finished seventh at the conference meet. Traycie Swartz finished 21st (200 free) and 23rd (50 free and 100 back) at the NCAA championships.

Tennis: Topped Texas Tech (4-3) to reach the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. The run ended with a 4-0 setback to Miami (Fla.). Utah (12-11 overall) finished 3-7 in Pac-12 competition.

Track and field: The Utes finished 10th at the Pac-12 meet. Amanda Mergaert and Brianna LeRoy qualified for the NCAA championships. Mergaert finished 14th in the 1,500-meter run, while LeRoy placed 22nd in the high jump.

Volleyball: Utah (11-20 overall) finished ninth with a 6-16 record in Pac-12 play.

Co-ed

Skiing: Competes in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association. The Utes placed first in the RMISA and second in the NCAA.

Email: dirk@desnews.com Twitter: @DirkFacer

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