Much like leg warmers, waterbeds, 8-track car stereos, rotary phones, Pacman and anything else that was popular or prevalent in the 1970s, the Old Oquirrh Bucket will soon be a thing of the past.
The Bucket, the trophy symbolizing collegiate basketball supremacy in the state of Utah, actually has a proud if somewhat obscure tradition dating back 37 years. Though it was never the focal point for any of the state's college basketball teams, it was certainly something to shoot for in the preseason — compiling the best record against in-state schools — before conference play got under way.
But with the University of Utah and BYU both headed for new conference affiliations based on the West Coast next year, scheduling seems to be getting more difficult. So this past week, officials from the four original Oquirrh Bucket schools — Utah, BYU, Utah State and Weber State — agreed to retire that old Bucket for the foreseeable future.
In other words, the Bucket is gonna kick the bucket, with the trophy being donated to the Utah Sports Hall of Fame.
But if scheduling really is the culprit here, then here's a perfect solution — a Beehive Classic preseason tournament, played in December at EnergySolutions Arena while the Jazz are out of town on one of their extended road trips.
Sure, this idea is nothing new. The concept was first conceived back in the early 1970s, after Weber State's basketball program began to gain prominence and achieved a level of respect previously reserved for its in-state Big Brothers at BYU, Utah and Utah State.
An annual "Big Four" tourney was proposed on more than one occasion, but coaches like BYU's Frank Arnold claimed his program had everything to lose and nothing to gain by participating in such an event, so it never got off the ground.
Now, nearly 40 years later, the time has finally come for the state's athletic directors to put their heads together and try and make this thing happen. Especially with the prospect of Utah perhaps deciding it doesn't want to bother scheduling Weber State any more, and with BYU and Utah State having trouble putting together games against each other in the future.
Don't tell me that it won't work, or that scheduling is going to be a problem. Not when BYU just got done playing somebody called Chicago State, and Utah played host to another Big Sky school, Montana, this past week.
Wouldn't it make more sense to bring the "Big Four," plus Utah Valley and Southern Utah, together for a two- or three-day Division I men's hoops tournament? Of course it would. And it would certainly generate more interest in college basketball around the state than seeing the Cougars playing Fresno Pacific, or the Utes taking on Portland U., or the Aggies facing Cal State Bakersfield — all of which will happen in the coming weeks.
If it's a six-team tournament, then you simply seed the schools 1 through 6 based on last year's records or current RPI, let the top two seeds sit out the first night — much like a conference tournament — and let the 3rd through 6th seeds square off in two games on opening night.
First-round winners would advance to play the top two seeds in the semifinals, and then you have a championship game on the third night. Or, heck, you could even play three games on the last day to not only decide 1st and 2nd place, but also 3rd and 4th place (semifinal losers) and 5th and 6th place (first-round losers). That way, everybody gets to stay involved and interested.
Think about it. A three-day tournament to decide the best collegiate men's basketball tournament in the state each season. You could even bring the Oquirrh Bucket back out of mothballs and present it to the winning team each year.
Of course, getting ADs to agree on anything like this might be a real challenge. Especially if some schools — and I won't name names — feel that facing some of those "other" guys around the state is somehow beneath them these days.
Keep one thing in mind. Over the last 15 years, one of those "other" guys, Weber State, has more NCAA Tournament wins (2) that either BYU or Utah State (1 each).
And if the Utes and Cougars don't want to make the trip up to Cache Valley to get slapped around in the Smith Spectrum any more, at least this way, they'd get to face the Aggies on a neutral — and decidedly more friendly — court.
Yes, indeed, the time has come to make that long-dormant dream of an annual Beehive Classic a reality.