There’s really nothing better in sports than rivalry, and it’s something Stansbury and Grantsville High Schools are missing out on this year. It’s something Utah, BYU and Utah State are missing out on a little bit this year too.
Fun fact: Idaho State plays four teams from the state of Utah, three more than any other Utah team. Utah doesn’t have a team from the state on the schedule. Weber, BYU, Utah State and Southern Utah all play one other team from the state.
The oft-used quip athletic directors and coaches respond with is something along the lines of how “it’s more complicated than it looks to schedule a game when there’s this much money involved.”
Well it would have to be, because it looks pretty simple from where I’m standing: The first call made after the conference or region schedules are released is to major rivals.
Let’s take week one of the high school season for example. Grantsville played in what turned out to be a steep test at Cedar City, a team from the talent-stacked 3AA South. Why couldn’t they have played a top team from 3AA North like Stansbury? Stansbury played North Sanpete of the 3A South region, why not play a team from 3A North like Grantsville? North Sanpete can play Cedar City week one and all problems are solved.
It can’t be that hard, because Tooele plays both Stansbury and Grantsville this year.
Whoever is holding up the Stansbury vs. Grantsville game needs to give themselves a firm reality check:
High school polls don’t matter much because they’re generally made up by the local newspapers and have no bearing on a state championship because the brackets are set based on region standings alone. Wins or losses over a rival school outside a conference don’t (read: shouldn’t) have any impact on which players come through the program because there is no (insert: legal) recruiting done at the high school level.
The college level, however, looks a bit trickier if you look at it from the outside.
In the college game, national championship-contending teams have to impress selection committees that have to make judgement calls based on strength of schedule and other factors — scheduling can be a game of program life and death. Losing to a rival school that is considered beneath your conference will lose your team invaluable recruits in most situations, especially if the recruit is making a final decision between those two teams.
Utah State and BYU both seem to enjoy the annual rivalry game. They’ve played each other every year on the Friday before the LDS Church’s General Conference and it seems to work pretty well for both teams. Although BYU’s conference independence has them desperately looking for late-season games against anyone better than the Idahos and New Mexico States of the college football world, so the Cougars and Aggies could probably find a scheduling agreement every year, even if the two teams weren’t rivals.
Utah has a trickier situation. Now in the Pac-12 with a power-five-conference mentality, the Utes can’t afford to lose games to mid-major schools like Utah State. Utah could view BYU as a worthy opponent because the Cougars still have some shreds of national prestige — though some of those strands were severed by SEC and ACC rejection.
Let’s try another example, just for fun:
Utah could drop Fresno for BYU this weekend, but that leaves the Cougars down a game against an opponent from a quality conference in Texas, so a week two matchup doesn’t work this year. But, Utah has a bye the same week BYU plays Houston, which is a game I’m convinced was only scheduled out of BYU’s desperation to get 12 games. Houston can play reigning champions Florida State, Clemson or North Carolina from the ACC, though Clemson already has 13 games scheduled this year and FSU and North Carolina only have 12.
I realize it’s a lot more complicated than I’ve made it out to be: Whenever there are large amounts of money involved like this, it always is.
But shouldn’t sports be about more than money?
Tavin Stucki is a recent journalism graduate of Utah State University who hasn’t found a sport he doesn’t like. To talk Aggie football or for more solutions on how to fix college sports, hit him up on Twitter: @TooeleTAVscript.