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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Bowling for (a few) dollars: Utes will see gains from Emerald Bowl, although not too many monetary ones

It may not be the Fiesta Bowl, but San Francisco is where the U football team will find itself at year’s end, as the Utes try to cap off an up-and-down season on a winning note.

While the hype surrounding this year’s bowl game is modest, to say the least, compared with last season’s pomp and circumstance, Ute players and coaches expect the Emerald Bowl to bring plenty of rewards.

The team’s undefeated campaign a year ago was not only a historic achievement in and of itself, but the sudden publicity was also credited with helping Utah’s recruiting and helping out the school-and the Mountain West Conference as a whole-on the financial front.

A strong performance for Utah in the Emerald Bowl certainly won’t bear as much fruit as last year’s victory in Tempe, Ariz., with each participating school netting about $750,000.

But the Utes think that they can not only help their future prospects, given the large recruiting base in the Bay Area, but also continue to build off of the team’s recent exposure and raise its profile even more.

“I think it will be important to play well,” Whittingham said. “Getting to a bowl game is one thing, but you want to play well when you get there.”

Whittingham said that, while monetary gain definitely helps to build the team, that’s not the only reason to participate in bowl season.

The increased visibility, he said, is invaluable to the future of the program.

“It’s not a big-money venture. Breaking even is what you’re probably looking at. But even if you don’t make any money, you go to a bowl game for the exposure, the extra practice…there’s just so many pluses. The pluses far outweigh the lack of monetary gain.”

While the Utes were getting a lot of publicity around this time last year, it’s a different story this year.

With the team riding an undefeated record, then-head coach Urban Meyer was fielding offers from other schools, eventually signing with Florida, leaving the team in a state of limbo during the weeks preceding the Fiesta Bowl.

That uncertainty isn’t there this season.

“There’s no uncertainty surrounding the team like there was last year,” Whittingham said. “The team’s mentality right now is great. They’re working hard in the weight room this week, and we had a great first practice.”

For many Ute players, however, the incentive goes further than simple recognition.

The team has several players who grew up and played high-school ball in northern California, including the Bay Area. New starting quarterback Brett Ratliff, who hails from Chico about three hours away from San Francisco, said that while his parents got to see him start Nov. 19 against BYU, the bowl game will carry extra significance because more of his friends and family members will be there.

One of his teammates, freshman wideout Brent Casteel, said he expects to bring “more than 100” people to the Emerald Bowl. Casteel attended Antioch High School just outside of San Francisco before coming to the U, and this week he’s been working on securing as many tickets as possible.

“I got a big fan base: family,” Casteel said.

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