The Pac-10 can finally consider its dance card filled.
According to ESPN, the University of Utah is set to become the twelfth member of the Pac-10, as the conference quickly moved to invite the Utes after having its expansion efforts temporarily derailed by Texas and four other members of the Big 12 earlier this week. An announcement could come as early as Thursday afternoon after Utah’s board of trustees convenes to discuss their options. Officials from the Pac-10 are scheduled to appear at a press conference following the meeting.
Utah, a member of the Mountain West Conference since its founding in 1999, became a power in both football and basketball, making it a good fit for the “Conference of Champions.”
The Utes move west caps off one of the wildest offseason weeks in recent college football memory. Four teams – Nebraska, Colorado, Boise State, and now Utah - have shifted conferences in the last seven days and it appears that more moves could be forthcoming.
The addition of Utah gives the Pac-10 the ability to split into a divisional format and host a football championship game, a venture that has been financially lucrative for other leagues such as the SEC and ACC. It also gives Colorado, which joined the conference a week ago, a geographic rival.
Gaining access to the Pac-10’s automatic Bowl Championship Series bid was undoubtedly a major factor in Utah’s decision to bolt the MWC. In 2008, Utah capped off an undefeated regular season by thrashing traditional power Alabama in the Sugar Bowl after being denied a chance to play for the national title. The Utes were also undefeated in 2004 but were not invited to compete in the championship game. The Mountain West Conference is not a BCS member and is not privy to an automatic bid.
It is unclear at this point when Utah would start athletic participation in the Pac-10 should it accept the invitation, but it could be as soon as the 2011 season.