Utes and Cougars carry Mountain West

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

Brigham Young University ran away with the MWC title in football last year. In volleyball, the Utah Utes went undefeated throughout their conference schedule to take the regular-season championship. The Utes or Cougars have won softball titles in each of the last four years.

It doesn’t matter what sport is in discussion or what year it is — Utah and BYU have been carrying the Mountain West Conference since its inception.

“Both schools are well-rounded and have plenty of great programs,” University of Utah Athletics Director Chris Hill said. “They’ve both been competing at the highest level since the beginning of the conference.”

Last year, the two schools won either the regular season or MWC tournament championship in 16 of the 19 sanctioned conference sports. BYU won an impressive 13 of those titles. The two teams have been nearly as dominant every year since the MWC materialized in 1999.

The most-publicized disparity lies on the football field, where either BYU or Utah has won the conference title in three of the last four seasons. The Cougars will tack on yet another championship if they win the remainder of their 2007 schedule.

The dominance transcends football. In soccer, Utah has won the title three of the past four seasons. In women’s basketball, the Cougars and Utes have combined to win the last five championships. In men’s basketball, BYU or Utah has won a conference championship in four of the past five seasons.

The list keeps going and going.

Mountain West Conference foes are starting to dread facing Utah and BYU, whether on the road or at home. In many sports, the two teams are played back-to-back on consecutive nights.

That is often the case in volleyball. Visiting teams will play in Salt Lake City on a Friday night, then travel to Provo to play the Cougars on Saturday. The trip’s difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that both teams consistently compete for the conference title.

“It’s as tough as it gets in this conference,” said Pat Stengle, Wyoming volleyball head coach. “To face those two teams on back-to-back nights on the road with the team worn out, it’s really difficult to get wins. I haven’t won a game (in Utah) since I started coaching here.”

Hill credits BYU and Utah’s dominance to their superior offerings to recruits.

“These two schools are great universities, and they have some of the best facilities and coaches,” Hill said. “Fortunately, that has produced some great recruiting classes.”

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