Utes lauded on the hill

By Michael McFall, Staff Writer

The Utah Legislature hailed the Ute football team for bringing pride and glory to the state with its perfect season and BCS-busting Sugar Bowl victory and called for a national playoff system to replace the controversial Bowl Championship Series.

Monday in the Capitol chambers, the Senate and House of Representatives recognized the Utes’ historic accomplishments with several standing ovations, the passage of a resolution to honor them as the shining stars of the state and, in the case of Rep. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden, breaking dress code with a red and white wig and matching jersey.

In a separate senate resolution sponsored by Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, lawmakers urged the National Collegiate Athletic Association to toss the BCS in favor of a playoff system that would “ensure that the best college football team is crowned as champion,” according to the resolution. The criticized BCS system relies on polls and computer rankings to determine which teams will play in national bowl games.

Before the resolution left the floor, Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, added an amendment so a copy of the resolution would be sent to President Barack Obama, who has publicly expressed a desire to do away with the BCS in favor of a playoff system.

Utah football head coach Kyle Whittingham is quoted in the House resolution, saying that “if given the chance, we could take on any team in the nation.”

However, the love extended to the team doesn’t likely mean the Legislature will be any more lenient toward the U when it comes to the legislative agenda.

“Even though we honor our favorite, we have to consider all students in the state,” said Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, a graduate of Dixie State College. Johnson hopes that the resolution will rally support for the U on the hill, but as the representatives of every Utahn, they have to make decisions by looking at the numbers, she said.

However, like the Ute fans, lawmakers are hopeful that the school’s success brings an added perspective to their decisions.

When college students from across the state paraded into the Capitol on Jan. 30, the Legislature decided to reduce the U’s budget cut by $17 million. Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, a graduate of Utah State University, said the students’ presence had a direct influence on the vote that day by putting a face to the lawmakers’ decisions. Sen. Jon Greiner, R-Ogden, another graduate of USU, said anything that brings the U into the limelight should have a positive effect on the House and Senate.

Whittingham, two athletic directors and five football players stood before the entire House and Senate on Monday to remind them of their accomplishments and the school that produced them.

“We feel the love of the entire state right now,” Whittingham said.

The majority of the two branches’ members are alumni of the U or Brigham Young University. Even BYU fans such as Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, saluted the Utes.

“I want to wish you the best of luck, except next November,” Gibson said.

Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan, sponsored the resolution, and offered his support to the team.

“Short, fat guys don’t usually play football, but I’m open,” Bird said.

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Associated Press

House representative Julie Fisher shows her Utah spirit Monday. The legislature is calling for a playoff system to determine college football?s national champion after the U was shut out of the national title game for the second time in four years.