We play Utah on Saturday and it will be the first measurable step in the new era of Michigan Football. The Schembechler Era has ended and we start all over with Rich Rodriguez at the helm. To list all the changes that have occurred since the last time a Michigan football team has played would be repetitive. Suffice to say, Utah has had a tough time game planning for us - because no one really knows what to expect. So what do we know about Utah...
History: Although I could find no reference on the official school web site, the University of Utah was originally established in 1850 by Mormon Leader Brigham Young. The school was originally named "University of Deseret" (Deseret was BY's proposed state name for what eventually became Utah). The initial institution closed in 1852 for financial reasons. 15 years later it reopened as a commercial school. It was officially renamed University of Utah in 1894. It serves as the flagship public research university in the state and is one of ten institutions that make up the Utah System of Higher Education.
Nickname: In the earliest days of University the students and alumni referred to their athletic teams as both the "Utes" and the "Redskins." Since 1972 all UofU athletics teams have been called the "Utes" in honor of the American Indian tribe for which the state is named. The Utes inhabited that area of the country for at least 1,000 years prior to the Mormon arrival. In 2004, the NCAA banned schools from using Native American nicknames and images. Utah was one of several schools to apply for and receive a waiver.
This from the Mighty Utah Student Section (MUSS) "Due to the sensitive nature of the mascot issue, we need to be particularly careful not to perpetuate any Native American stereotypes. For example, do not wear war paint, dress in traditional Indian headdress, or do anything else that would be disrespectful to the American Indian nation or the Ute tribe. Do not use the tomahawk chop, although usage of the index and pinky fingers to form a “U” is acceptable."
Mascot: The University's mascot, "Swoop" represents the red-tailed hawk, a bird indigenous to the state of Utah. Swoop was introduced in 1996 after a campus contest to name him. Boring.
Logo/Helmet: Utah uses a simple yet elegant "U" as it's primary logo. There has been surprisingly few changes in their football helmets over the years. They moved to the current "Washington Redskins" design in 1975 and have not really changed since. Personally I like the "UU" version from 1965.Fight Song: The fight song (Utah Man) was originally written as a beer-drinking song in 1904 by then football coach Harvey Holmes and his team. It has been labeled as sexist, old fashioned, difficult, offensive and dated. The last attempt to change the lyrics was in 1984 when a university vice president suggested changing the lyrics. His decision was vetoed and the song remains.
Academics: Ouch. According to the US News and World Report rankings, Utah is the 127th best National University, tied with the New Jersey Institute of Technology and University of San Francisco. Utah is ranked just above the cut-off line of the unranked/Tier III schools. Rival school Brigham Young University is ranked 113th. If Utah were in the Big Ten (cough 11) - they would rank 12th, by a long shot (Michigan State and Indiana are tied at #71).
I am a Utah man, sir, and I live across the green.
Our gang, it is the jolliest that you have ever seen.
Our coeds are the fairest and each one's a shining star.
Our yell, you hear it ringing through the mountains near and far.
Who am I, sir?
A Utah man am I A Utah man, sir, and will be till I die; Ki!Yi!
We're up to snuff
We never bluff
We're game for any fuss
No other gang of college men dare meet us in the muss.
So fill your lungs and sing it out and shout it to the sky
We'll fight for dear old Crimson,for a Utah man am I.
Athletics: The Utes participate in the Mountain West conference, along with their rival Brigham Young University. The Utah/BYU game is dubbed The Holy War - for which the winner receives the Beehive Boot. They have been playing college football at Rice-Eccles Stadium since 1927. The Utes have the highest winning percentage in the nation for teams who have been to more than 10 bowls (10-3). They have won 23 conference championships. In 2004 Urban Meyer coached the best season in school history, going undefeated (12-0) and became the first school from a non-Bowl Championship Series conference to play in a BCS bowl game when they demoralized Pitt 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl. Urban left for Florida soon after.
Utah has also had long term success in men's basketball (9th most wins among college basketball programs). The Runnin' Utes have made 28 NCAA Tournament appearances and have made 4 Final Four appearances. They won the NCAA Basketball title in 1944. They are currently coached by former Michigan State assistant Jim Boylen.
However, Utah's greatest success has been in women's gymnastics, where they have won 10 NCAA championships. Oh yeah, their ski team has won a bunch of championships also, go figure.
Famous Alums: Famous University of Utah Alum include athletes Alex Smith (the top bust in 2005 NFL draft), Andrew Bogut (the top pick in 2005 NBA draft), NBA player Keith Van Horn and former NFL coach George Seifert. Non athletes include Nolan Bushnell (Co-founder of Atari and inventor of Pong); Ed Catmull (Co-founder of Pixar); Jim Clark (founder of Netscape); Stephen Covey (author of the bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People); E (as in Elwood) Gordon Gee (President at Ohio State); Robert Jarvik (inventor of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart); Willard Marriott (founder of Marriott International and Evelyn Wood (speed reading innovator).
The Game: I am optimistic, but I honestly have no idea. There is so much we don't know about how the Rodriguez system will function with these Michigan players. I asked my son to simulate ten Utah at Michigan games on NCAA09 (XBox 360 version) and Michigan won nine out of ten battles (Brandon Minor won the MVP four times and Steven Threet three times). However, that does not mean anything if you consider you could have simulated one hundred '07 Appy State games -- and Michigan would win all of them. Utah returns a ton of players and are favored to win the Mountain West Conference. I still like the Michigan defense and super ninja freshman Sam McGuffie to beat Gordon Gee's favorite team.
Michigan 24 Utah 14
Go Blue !!