A Beginner’s Guide to Utah’s Premier Athletic Teams


Jonathan Wang

Sophomore quarterback Cameron Rising getting ready to hand off the football to junior running back TJ Pledger against Washington State football at the Rice-Eccles Stadium on Sept. 25, 2021. (Photo by Jonathan Wang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Sports Editor


The University of Utah is a great place for athletes around the world to come and compete at the highest level. Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the U has been one of the premier teams in multiple different sports across the conference, especially in recent years. The Utes are set up for success for many years to come thanks to the great coaches, athletes and administrators that make our school a success. Here’s everything you need to know about Utah’s premier athletic programs as we head into the 2022-23 season.


Utah’s football team has quickly become one of the best in the country under head coach Kyle Whittingham, and they have had sustained, growing success especially over the past five years. Last season, the Utes made a trip to the Pac-12 Championship game, defeating the Oregon Ducks to capture their first ever Pac-12 title. From there, Utah headed to the Rose Bowl, where they lost a thrilling matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Utah sends multiple players to the NFL every season, and is quickly becoming recognized as one of the top development programs in the country, particularly for defensive players. 

Much of the Utes’ success can be attributed to Whittingham, who became the winningest coach in the history of the program this past season. He’s also the longest tenured coach in the Pac-12.

Utah is preparing to defend their Pac-12 title this season and get back to the Rose Bowl. Many analysts have them as potential College Football Playoff contenders, which comes with a shot at the National Title. Over 10 years in the Pac-12 have led to this point, and the Utes are clearly a team on the rise.


Utah’s men’s and women’s basketball teams have seen varied levels of success in recent years, but both programs are looking up.

The men’s basketball program, otherwise known as the Runnin’ Utes, just finished its first season under new head coach Craig Smith. Smith came to the Utes from Utah State. He was the replacement for Larry Krystkowiak, who took Utah to two NCAA Tournament appearances and three NIT berths. The program struggled in his final few seasons as coach, though, prompting a change to Smith for the 2021-22 season.

Smith has been building a roster from the ground up, and with a few new commitments and transfers, things are looking up for the program in 2022-23. They’ll try to improve on finishing 11th place in the Pac-12.

On the other side of the coin, the women’s basketball program is coming off of perhaps their most successful season ever. A Cinderella run in the Pac-12 Tournament took them all the way to the championship game, where they lost to powerhouse Stanford. They earned a seven-seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they made it to the second round before falling to two-seed Texas.

The team is led by Lynne Roberts, who just recently signed an extension to keep her with Utah through at least 2027. It’s a program on the upswing, and they’re currently adding to their roster for an even better 2022-23 campaign. It’s not unrealistic to view them as a potential conference powerhouse going forward.


Finally, Utah’s gymnastics team, otherwise known as the Red Rocks, has consistently been one of the best in the nation for over 40 years. They have won 10 national championships, finished as the runner-up nine times, and have never finished lower than 10th, qualifying for every single NCAA Championship since their existence. This past season they finished third in the country.

The Red Rocks churn out Olympic athletes and pro gymnasts every season. They are coached by Tom Farden. Greg Marsden was the coach from the inception of the program up until his retirement in 2015, and from 2010 onward those duties were shared with his wife, Megan Marsden. Megan retired in 2019, leaving Farden to take over.

Utah is judged every year by whether or not they won the championship, not by where they finished. That should tell you about the expectations for this program year in and year out. They have been by far Utah’s most successful athletic program in the university’s history, and they will surely be competing for many more NCAA Championships for years to come.

Other Sports

Utah also offers baseball, golf, lacrosse, beach volleyball, cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field, volleyball, soccer, softball, swim & dive, skiing and tennis. Each team is full of incredible athletes who compete on a national level. The U is becoming more and more of an athletic powerhouse every season.


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