PAC-12 conference change brings increased revenue

Story and photos by SCOTT WISEMAN

The University of Utah’s athletic department is an organization that has been acknowledged nationally for its prestige in facilities, recruitment, scholarship and ability to thrive.

Freshman Tight End Jake Murphy performs a dead-lift excerise during training. The Dee Glen Smith Athletic Center recieved a large amount of funding from PAC-12 television contracts and private donors for reconstruction and expansion.

Starting in the fall of 2011, the department will undergo its largest change yet— a migration from the Mountain West Athletic Conference to the newly-restructured, illustrious PAC-12 Athletic Conference.

Although details about the myriad changes the conference switch might bring are still mostly speculation, it is obvious that some form of change is imminent.

One of the major highlights that has people buzzing is the fact that Utah will now be placed in a Bowl Championship Series conference. Being in one of these six conferences means they will receive a chance at an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game. This is the highest achievement for a team in American college football.

Previously located in the MWC, the Utes did not automatically qualify for BCS bowl games, and found it extremely difficult to appear in those games. If the Utes were to perform at the same competitive level in the PAC-12 as they did in the MWC, they will get the opportunity to routinely appear in games such as the Rose Bowl and the College National Championship.

One of the many changes that are looming in the horizon for Utah’s athletic department— specifically football— include the guaranteed increase in revenue generated from television contracts, ticket sales and the Bowl Championship Series.

Dr. Chris Hill, Athletic Director for the University of Utah, explained that the Utes are guaranteed $2.5 million in television contracts, an increase of $500,000 from last year’s television generated revenue.

When Utah joined the PAC-12, the athletic department agreed on a payment plan for television contracts where they would receive 50 percent of the usual share for their second year in the league, 75 percent for their third year and 100 percent of the revenue share after their fourth year, Hill said.

While Hill did not know the exact figures for the money that the newly restructured television revenue contracts would bring in after the Utes’ fourth year in the league, it is only expected to increase rapidly.

“Money is everything,” said Morgan Scalley, Utah’s football recruiting coordinator. “It allows us to build well-equipped facilities, upgraded equipment, academic services and ton of other options depending on different priorities.”

Dumbells are part of the improved equipment replaced in the Dee Glen Smith Athletic Center.

Utah’s athletic department is a separate organization from the university, and the revenue generated from athletics is kept in an internal budget, Hill said. The revenue produced is used for the constant improvement of the athletic department.

This means that all of the student benefits of joining the PAC-12 conference will have to be indirect. Whether or not the addition of a more prestigious athletic department will translate into a more well-known university has yet to be seen.

For Utah’s football team, money comes from a variety of different sources. The revenue is generated from the stadium, ticket sales and private donors, sometimes called boosters, Scalley said.

When asked where the new revenue generated would end up, Hill said the athletic department planned on first upgrading the football center on campus, and then it would turn its attention to recruiting. With an increase in budget, higher salaried coaches and recruiters are given a chance to come to Utah, all with the supreme goal of making Utah the best of the West, Hill said.

“The shift to the PAC-12 conference will make Utah more attractive to talented recruits, leading to more respect for our department,” Hill said. “We hope the change will add visibility to the U as well.”

Students from across the university are becoming increasingly aware of the decision to migrate to a new athletic conference and the implications of the decision.

“I’m extremely excited for football season,” said Christopher Leeson, a student at the University of Utah. “Most importantly, I believe the conference switch will lead to an increase of students at the U, making it an exciting place to attend school.”

Todd Patton, a student at the university studying mass communication, believes the migration to a more prestigious athletic conference will be beneficial to the school in several different ways.

“Getting more revenue leads to having a better team,” Patton said. “If the team generates higher revenue, they have the budget to spend on recruiting, new facilities and top coaches, all of which are things that make a championship team.”

Both students said they did not think the transition of athletic conferences would affect their lives as students dramatically at the university. The transition might take several years to complete, and by that time, several students currently studying at the university will have graduated, Leeson said.

Utah’s athletic department is a separate organization from the university, and the revenue generated from athletics is kept in an internal budget, Hill said. The revenue produced is used for the constant improvement of the athletic department.

“Unfortunately, I wish that some of the extra revenue generated by the athletic department would be shared with other campus organizations,” Leeson said. “Greeks, the Bennion Center and several other clubs are in need of funding so that they can continue to aid the community.”