The U is becoming ‘big time’ in college athletics

Michigan, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Miami, North Carolina-the nation’s most recognizable institutions also feature its most well-rounded athletics departments. The U may soon be joining their ranks.

The 2004-2005 school year has already been one to remember for the Ute athletics department. Every time you check the paper, it seems like another U team is winning a conference title or creeping into the national rankings.

No longer is Utah just a “specialist” school. The nation has been put on notice: we play everything, not just men’s basketball.

As we all remember, the football team went undefeated, won its conference and demolished Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl-garnering millions of dollars for the school.

The aforementioned men’s basketball team recently cracked the top 25 for the first time this year, and it sits atop the Mountain West Conference. The program seems to have survived the departure of the face most often associated with U sports: Rick Majerus.

Both the football and basketball teams could be well-represented in the pros-with a handful of prospects between them-and two obvious blue-chippers in Andrew Bogut and Alex Smith.

The women’s gymnastics team is ranked No. 2 in the nation, and it has beaten the No. 1 UCLA Bruins already this season. Women’s basketball is 14-5 and second in the conference standings.

Ute skiers began the season ranked No. 1 by SkiRacing magazine.

The alpine team has taken first in team standings at every event so far.

This fall the women’s soccer team topped the MWC and was nationally ranked for a while. Last year the soccer team won the conference tournament.

Women’s volleyball went 24-7 and made their seventh straight tournament appearance. This spring, the softball team will try to defend its Mountain West title.

A hopelessly quiet school has been given something to shout about. Lost in the obscurity of the MWC, the passion of Ute sports fans has long centered on rivalries.

Recently, talk around campus has been of national championships and pro drafts, not how much BYU SUCKS. Nobody seems to care anymore that BYU SUCKS. In fact, unless we take a while to remember them from time to time, we may run the risk of altogether forgetting that BYU SUCKS.

The U is primarily a commuter school, and very little has been able to effectively unite our campus to the extent that sports have this year.

In most places collegiate pride can be measured by the combined alcohol consumption of the fans in the stadium. In Salt Lake City people aren’t usually trashed, and people need a product to be proud of-without beer goggles.

This athletic season has seen large turnouts to most events, and fans seem to possess a newfound spirit. Not everybody at the games is a red sweater-wearing, grey-haired alumnus anymore.

Some current students are actually spending extra time on campus to watch sports, either delaying their commutes or daring to make an extra one or two amid the congestion and chaos of game days on the mountain.

Inventing riotous, stupid pride is a slow process, but the Utes are well on their way to insanity of classic proportions.

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