CULVER CITY, Calif. — Utah and BYU are expected to play each other in the final game of the season in 2018. In all likelihood, however, it won’t be something that happens every year thereafter.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said it’s a question of logistics and timing. Nothing philosophical or anything like that.
It’s all about cherished USC-Notre Dame and Stanford-Notre Dame rivalries. Those late-season games, Scott explained, occasionally open up some dates for other games.
“We haven’t changed our fundamental policy that nonconference games going forward need to be the first three weeks,” Scott said. “But because having these Notre Dame games for USC and Stanford is a high priority for us, we made a decision recently that we want to do that even if it opens up some other nonconference games later in the season.”
And in 2018, Utah and BYU will square off in late November for the first time since the Utes joined the Pac-12 in 2011.
“Basically there were some openings that came up as we looked at future calendars that made sense for them to reinstate the rivalry game, which we think is terrific,” said Scott, who noted that the Cougars will also play Stanford and USC in the future.
As for Utah-BYU, Scott noted that it could be scheduled late in the season when it makes sense.
“We’re not at the point where we’ve said it’s something that’s going to be grandfathered the way the Notre Dame rivalries (are), which go way back in our conference,” Scott said. “But we’ll see. The thing about the football calendar is it’s an evolving thing and I don’t think anything is set in stone permanently.”
TOPPING THE LIST: When camp opens Aug. 5, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted two priorities — cornerbacks and special teams specialists. The Utes, he explained, are undergoing “complete rebuilds” in both areas.
Although short on experience at cornerback, Whittingham added that there are six or seven talented players in the program to compete at that position.
“But that learning curve has got to be very short and they’ve got to get up to speed very quickly because with our defense we rely on great corner play and so that’s what we’ve got to have,” he said.
QUARTERBACK BATTLE: Sophomore Travis Wilson enters camp atop the depth chart at quarterback.
“He’s the incumbent. He’s the guy. It’s his job to lose,” Whittingham said. “But there is nobody who is guaranteed a starter. You’ve got to continue to produce and we’ve got some talented players behind him.”
Whittingham noted that the Utes have five “very talented quarterbacks” in Wilson, Adam Schulz, Brandon Cox, Conner Manning and Micah Thomas.
“Talent-wise we feel like we’re in as good a shape as we’ve ever been at that position,” Whittingham said.
The challenge, he added, will be to get the rotation down to three fairly soon and ultimately two as quickly as possible in camp.
“That’s really all you can afford to get ready during the course of the season during game weeks is two guys,” Whittingham said.
MEDIA DAZE: Pac-12 coaches were part of a whirlwind bicoastal media tour that began with a trip back East to ESPN headquarters in Connecticut and concluded with the California gathering. Whittingham and the other 11 coaches made the journey in private jets, arriving back in Los Angeles Thursday evening.
“It’s been good. Travel wears on you a little bit, but I think overall it’s well worth your time,” Whittingham said. “It’s good for the conference. It’s good for our program. It’s good for the university. So it’s a good thing.”
TOGETHER AGAIN: Utah tight end Jake Murphy and defensive end Trevor Reilly joined two players from each Pac-12 team for dinner at a steakhouse Thursday night. For Murphy, it was a reunion of sorts with American Fork neighbor Xavier Su’a-Filo. He’s been buddies with UCLA’s 6-foot-3, 304-pound All-American offensive lineman since about eight grade.
“It was good to see him again and meet the other players,” Murphy said. “We just kind of hung out and talked. It was fun.”
Other players attending media day included: wide receiver Terrence Miller (Arizona), linebacker Jake Fischer (Arizona), quarterback Trevor Kelly (Arizona State), defensive tackle Will Sutton (Arizona State), wide receiver Bryce Treggs (California), linebacker Nick Forbes (California), wide receiver Paul Richardson (Colorado), defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe (Colorado), quarterback Marcus Mariota (Oregon), cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon), wide receiver Brandin Cooks (Oregon State), defensive back Rashaad Reynolds (Oregon State), offensive lineman David Yankey (Stanford), linebacker Shayne Skov (Stanford), linebacker Anthony Barr (UCLA), wide receiver Marqise Lee (USC), linebacker Hayes Pullard (USC), quarterback Keith Price (Washington), defensive back Sean Parker (Washington), offensive lineman Elliott Bosch (Washington State) and defensive back Deone Bucannon (Washington State).
OTHER OPTIONS: When asked about getting the Pac-12 Networks on DirecTV, Scott pulled out a list of 50 sports channels (big, small, national, regional) that are currently carried by the provider. Adding the Pac-12’s programming, however, doesn’t appear to be imminent.
“We feel bad that our fans are in this position,” said Scott, who noted that the carrier has drawn a line in the sand for whatever reason and has stopped investing in sports.
“We’re getting rope-a-doped by DirecTV,” said Scott, who wants to give fans as much notice as possible to explore options as the football season approaches.
The Pac-12 has introduced an assistance program on its official website (Pac-12.org) to help fans make the switch.
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