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Utah Utes football: For six former Utes and current assistants, Pac-12 is dream come true

For six former Utes and current assistants, Pac-12 is dream come true

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 2 2015 9:10 a.m. MDT

Utah safeties coach Morgan Scalley (Mike Terry, Deseret News) Utah safeties coach Morgan Scalley (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — From the WAC to the Mountain West to the Pac-12, six of Utah's current assistants have made double investments in the transformation.

Offensive coordinator Norm Chow, offensive line coach Tim Davis, quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, cornerbacks coach/special teams coordinator Jay Hill, safeties coach/recruiting coordinator Morgan Scalley and defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a are coaches who also played for the Utes.

"They take great pride in their alma mater. They've got a vested interest in this program," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "It's great that guys have had a great experience in this program as a player and they want to come back and continue to be a part of it."

Moving to the Pac-12 is exciting, he added, and the staff is "working our tails off to make sure we're ready."

Utah's Offensive Line Coach Tim Davis   (Mike Terry, Deseret News) Utah's Offensive Line Coach Tim Davis (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

Even so, it's a fun time for those involved with the program.

"It's special," said Chow, who was an All-WAC offensive guard for the Utes in 1967. "It's generated a lot of excitement with the alumni, a lot of guys that I played with, we're all getting back together again. It's an exciting time, but you've got to temper that because it's tough now. It's tough."

Never in your wildest dreams, Chow explained, did this move seem possible back in his playing days. Then again, he noted, no one realized that there was going to be a separation of BCS and non-BCS schools.

When that happened things changed. College football evolved into the haves and the have-nots.

In 2004, Utah broke the mold as the first "BCS busters." The Utes went on to defeat Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

Morgan Scalley, Sione Pouha and Alex Smith clebrate their victory of the 2005 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, AZ., Jan 1, 2005.  Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret Morning News. (Submission date: 01/01/2005) (Jeffrey D. Allred, Jeffrey D. Allred) Morgan Scalley, Sione Pouha and Alex Smith clebrate their victory of the 2005 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, AZ., Jan 1, 2005. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret Morning News. (Submission date: 01/01/2005) (Jeffrey D. Allred, Jeffrey D. Allred)

Scalley, who was one of the stars on that team, said the move to the automatic qualifying side of the line means a ton to the program. He sent out an email to alumni last week and noted how pumped they are about the move to the Pac-12.

It's obviously a historically significant time for the Utes.

"No question. We'd be stupid if we didn't think that way," Scalley said. "Our players understand that they represent more than just this year's class. They want to do Ute Nation proud."

The Utes, he added, have to take care of business — keep winning games and reaching their goals.

"Now we're in that situation where we're not going to be on the outside looking in," Scalley said.

Coaches Brian Johnson and Norm Chow (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Coaches Brian Johnson and Norm Chow (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Johnson, one of the key contributors in leading Utah to national prominence, acknowledged the conference switch is extremely special.

"I think it says a lot about the leadership of this program and all the great players that played here before, all the hard work they put in for us to get to this point as a program," said the 2009 Sugar Bowl MVP. "It's something that I'm obviously looking forward to and we're all excited about it."

For the players, Johnson continued, it'll be great to be on the big stage each week.

"Obviously I wouldn't trade my career for anything in the world," he said. "But this is an excellent opportunity for our guys to show the rest of the country what we're all about."

Kauha'aha'a, who was a defensive lineman for the Utes from 1993-96, isn't surprised the program is now in the Pac-12. The thought was never far from his mind considering the success of recent years.

Offensive coordinator Norm Chow yells instructions during University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Monday, Aug. 15, 2011.   (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Offensive coordinator Norm Chow yells instructions during University of Utah football practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

"This program deserves to be where it's at," Kauha'aha'a said. "We're excited and we're going to get tested from the get-go."

Utah makes its Pac-12 debut Saturday against USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Kauha'aha'a joined the staff this year after coaching stints at Weber State and Utah State.

"Being a former player it's special being back here as a coach. It's a dream job for a person in my profession to come back to your alma mater," he said. "Taking that step into a BCS conference is even more exciting."

It's a big, big deal — and not just financially.

"I think it's awesome. I think it's a long time coming. I think the guys like Whit and the guys before him have really prepared this program to do that," said Davis, who was named Utah's Most Inspirational Player in 1980 and just started his second tour of duty as an assistant coach with the Utes. "They've done that by hard work, passion and getting after it. So it's really going to be fun to watch it on Saturday."

BYU runner Mark Atuaia is stacked up by Utha defenders Chad Kauhaahaa (behind) and Jeff Kirkman. PHOTO BY GARY MCKELLAR. (Submission date: 10/21/2002) (Associated Press) BYU runner Mark Atuaia is stacked up by Utha defenders Chad Kauhaahaa (behind) and Jeff Kirkman. PHOTO BY GARY MCKELLAR. (Submission date: 10/21/2002) (Associated Press)

It'll also be intense.

"The spotlight's on us and we're looking to have a good showing," said Hill, who has the unique perspective of playing for the Utes in both the WAC and MWC, followed by 11 years of coaching in the latter. He credits Ron McBride for starting the program's transformation and taking things to the next level. Then came the success of Meyer and Whittingham, culminating with membership in the Pac-12.

"It's been pretty special to see as a player and as a coach," Hill said.

Pac-12 opener

Utah (1-0) at USC (1-0)

Saturday, 5:30 p.m. (MT)

TV: Versus Radio: 700 AMTotally invested

Utah's Jay Hill celebrates an interception in the endzone. (Scott G. Winterton, All) Utah's Jay Hill celebrates an interception in the endzone. (Scott G. Winterton, All)

Current Utah football coaches who played for the Utes:

NORM CHOW, offensive coordinator

Offensive guard (1965-67): 1st team All-WAC as a senior.

Utah's conference affiliation as a player: WAC (1965-67)

Utah's conference affiliation as a coach: Pac-12 (2011-present)

TIM DAVIS, offensive line coach

Utah's conference affiliation as a player: WAC (1978-80)

Utah's conference affiliation as a coach: WAC (1990-96), Pac-12 (2011-present)

JAY HILL, cornerbacks coach/special teams coordinator

Quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson is proud of the players and coaches who paved the way for Utah's Pac-12 opportunity.   (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson is proud of the players and coaches who paved the way for Utah's Pac-12 opportunity. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Utah's conference affiliation as a player: WAC (1998), MWC (1999)

Utah's conference affiliation as a coach: MWC (2001-10), Pac-12 (2011-present)

BRIAN JOHNSON, quarterbacks coach

Utah's conference affiliation as a player: MWC (2004-08)

Utah's conference affiliation as a coach: MWC (2010), Pac-12 (2011-present)

CHAD KAUHA'AHA'A, defensive line coach

Utah's conference affiliation as a player: WAC (1993-96)

Utah's conference affiliation as a coach: Pac-12 (2011-present)

MORGAN SCALLEY, safeties coach/recruiting coordinator

Utah's conference affiliation as a player: MWC (2001-04)

Utah's conference affiliation as a coach: MWC (2006-10), Pac-12 (2011-present)

Pac-12 opener

Utah (1-0)

at USC (1-0)

Saturday, 5:30 p.m. (MT)

TV: Versus Radio: 700 AM

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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