King of the hill

Two years ago, the U came under intense scrutiny from the NCAA regarding a series of minor infractions surrounding the men’s basketball team. The NCAA ultimately found that more than 20 violations of its code had occurred under the watch of former head coach Rick Majerus.

The school’s athletic program fell under a dark cloud as rumors of Majerus’ retirement swirled, and local media called for the head of U Athletic Director Chris Hill.

That wasn’t Hill’s only concern, either. Two years ago, the football team was in shambles, Marc Jackson was refusing to play if Majerus continued to coach, and the gymnastics team had fallen into a slump after years of dominance.

Unwilling to accept defeat, Hill knew something had to be done. He found new coaches for the men’s basketball and football teams, and he made sure they were cream of the crop before he made any final decisions. It might not seem like it now, but Hill was taking a risk on both Urban Meyer and Ray Giacoletti. Both were relatively unknown at the time they were hired, and the local media questioned both decisions.

Let’s just say that nobody is questioning his decisions now.

I don’t know if we can give Hill all the credit, but in the last two years, things have definitely changed around here.

After a slow start to the new millennium, U athletics have recently taken off. In the last two years alone, the Utes have won either regular season or postseason conference championships in football (twice), soccer (twice), volleyball, softball, women’s swimming and diving (twice), men’s swimming and diving, men’s basketball (once, and on the verge of another) and women’s basketball (also on track to add another win to last year’s top finish).

The MWC doesn’t have conference championship for gymnastics, but if they did, you can bet the Utes would win it. Last year, the Red Rocks finished in the super six of the NCAA Tournament and this year they are ranked No. 1 in the country.

Congratulations are clearly in order for Hill, who has now distinguished himself as one of the premier athletic directors in the country. We just have to hope he doesn’t leave for greener pastures, now that his prominence as an A.D. has been established.

By year’s end, we will have seen one of the best two-year runs in the history of U athletics. Whether or not it will continue is hard to say. The cyclical nature of college sports has been quickened by the departures of Alex Smith, Steve Savoy, and in all likelihood, Andrew Bogut.

Even if Hill stays, we probably shouldn’t expect such a ridiculous level of success to continue.

So sit back and enjoy the moment. We are witnessing an era of athletic dominance that we will look back on with nostalgia in years to come. We will tell our grandkids that we went to school with Hall-of-Famers Bogut and Smith, and even though they won’t believe us, we will know it was true.

It’s a good time to be a Ute. Cherish it.

[email protected]