SALT LAKE CITY — Along with dignitaries on the podium and a couple of thousand fans surrounding the stage, numerous Ute athletes, coaches and boosters were in attendance Friday afternoon at the state Capitol for Utah Pac-12 Day.
"Excited" was the word being repeated by nearly everyone who came to cheer on the start of Utah's official inclusion into the Pac-12.
"It's an exciting time," said Ute quarterback Jordan Wynn. "But as a football team we've got to take it one at a time and not get too caught up in all the excitement."
Football coach Kyle Whittingham was on vacation and couldn't be on hand, but Ute assistant Morgan Scalley was present along with about 35 Ute players, including Wynn.
"We're excited to get things kicked off," Scalley said. "There are a lot of expectations and a lot of pressure, but no one puts more pressure on this program than we do. Were looking forward to taking care of our responsibilities. There's been a lot of sacrifice and time and effort put in getting us here and now we realize the responsibility of carrying it forward."
One of the oldest players on the football team is senior returned missionary J.J. Williams, who never dreamed this day would happen.
"It's pretty amazing," Williams said. "I've been around since 2005 and seen a lot of things, but it's definitely a very exciting day for the program, and I'm excited to be here for it. I never even thought about it when I first came here, but thanks to all of the people that have come before and the hard work they did, we're deserving of it."
New U. men's basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak was on hand, along with senior center David Foster.
"It's a new situation for our staff and our team, and to be able to add this environment in this league on top of that, makes it a real special day," Krystkowiak said. "It's a day that a lot of people around here have been waiting for, and I'm just happy to be a part of it."
One of Utah's longest-tenured coaches is tennis coach F.D. Robbins, who has been at the school for 24 years.
"It's great for the state and the school and the athletic department — everybody," said Robbins. "We've got to be ready to be competitive. We're excited about it and the chance to get to play everyone up here every other year."
First-year U. women's basketball coach Anthony Levrets said, "The most important thing that this brings to our university is the trickle-down effect it brings to our student-athletes, especially for the kids who don't have a chance to play (as a professional). It's the degree. Playing against those programs is amazing, but the big thing for us, is where are you going to be in 10 years from now."
Longtime Ute booster and prominent local banker Spencer Eccles said the impact of Utah joining the Pac-12 will be much bigger than a lot of people realize.
"Having the opportunity to join the conference at this time, the premier conference in the country, is so impactful for the state and university," Eccles said. "Not just for the state, but academically, research-wise and for our students — I'm just thrilled to death. I'm sure we will play off of this ball for years to come and will have great meaning for all of the students who get degrees at the U. of U. The best is yet to come."
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company