Patrick Kinahan: Avoid getting Big 12 tattoos just yet, Utah fans

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SALT LAKE CITY — Add seer to the multitude of job descriptions Kyle Whittingham holds as Utah's head football coach.

Over the last several years, Whittingham has correctly predicted the massive change that was coming to the landscape of college football. Although short of actual specifics, he nailed the drastic overhaul that has hit virtually every conference.

In two months, due to the sad demise of the Pac-12, Utah will officially join Colorado and the two Arizona universities as members of the Big 12. But a word to the wise, Utes fans, hold off on getting tattoos or slapping decals on bumper stickers gleefully recognizing your new conference affiliation.

Before competing in even one athletic event, Utah already is the subject of more conference upheaval. In a social media post on X, sportswriter Dick Weiss dropped that Utah may move to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Weiss, whose five decade career includes induction into the National Sportswriters Hall of Fame, wrote: "Speculation is circulating about potential shifts in college sports conferences. There is discussion about Utah possibly moving to the ACC despite its recent move to the Big 12, with some suggesting the ACC might be a better fit due to its EPSN network agreement and potential for increased TV value. However, skepticism exists regarding the stability and attractiveness of the ACC compared to the Big 12."

The point here is not to debate the merits of the Big 12 vs. the ACC — from a distance it seems like a lateral move that has positives and negatives. The bigger issue is Utah's new marriage isn't exactly made in heaven.

Utah wanted to marry its soulmate for eternity, with both sides living happily ever after when the Pac-12 expanded in 2011. You might say the Utes left their hearts in San Francisco, home of the Pac-12 headquarters, when the conference essentially crumbled last summer amid bungled mismanagement.

The beginning of the end started nearly 24 months ago with the stunning announcement that Pac-12 stalwarts USC and UCLA would take the money and run to the Big Ten in time for the 2024-25 academic year. Despite best intentions, Utah and the others could not do enough to keep the remaining 10 members together.

At that point, following along the lines of Whittingham, the Utah administration wanted to join the Big Ten along with the two Los Angeles institutions and Oregon and Washington, which got invited at a reduced financial rate last summer when the Pac-12 fell apart. Without a Big Ten ticket, and essentially faced with no other choice, Utah joined the Big 12.

In Utah's first press conference announcing the move, athletic director Mark Harlan acknowledged the change was bittersweet, "but there's the sweet part, too, and there is excitement of what's ahead and the cities that our student-athletes will be able to compete in and those opportunities that will be new."

Let's hear it for all those trips to Ames, Iowa; Cincinnati; Morgantown, West Virginia; and the Texas two-step of Lubbock and Waco. Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Phoenix have nothing on them.

However, several weeks after Harlan and university president Taylor Randall addressed the media on the new conference, Whittingham cautioned against building any new rivalries just yet. Who knows, he said, maybe the old Pac-12 buddies will get together again.

Reunited and it will feel so good, right Utes fans?

"Football has changed so much," Whittingham said during his weekly press conference leading up to the UCLA game. "We went years and years and years with very little change at all and now it's complete upheaval. And I can tell you right now, we'll play UCLA again down the road because it's going to change again. There's going to be a massive shift, and I think UCLA and Utah will probably end up in the same situation — in a good situation.

"So, yeah, temporarily, it will be a few years before we play again, but I think with the changes on the horizon, it'll be, at some point, back together again."

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Patrick is a radio host for 97.5/1280 The Zone and the Zone Sports Network. He, along with David James, are on the air Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.


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