Relationships between universities in the state of Utah are interesting and diverse when it comes to college basketball. Some, like Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University, are just starting to play each other on a regular basis. Some never meet on the hardwood. Others, like the U of U and BYU, have played each other every year for decades. In their case, the rivalry became so intense that U of U head coach Larry Krystkowiak felt it necessary to suspend play between the universities, citing player safety concerns. One thing is clear, however: When in-state foes get together on the court, it usually yields a fun and exciting result. I believe an in-state tournament among Utah universities is overdue.
In the landscape of college basketball, it is not uncommon for teams to participate in tournaments during the regular season, often at a neutral site. Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City would be a fitting place for an in-state invitational. The arena is big enough to house the fans of the separate universities and it would provide a neutral site for the games.
Such a tournament makes sense for everyone involved. For the larger programs it would present an opportunity to schedule some extra games close to home as well as get some (what should be) easy tune-up wins. The fans would be able to come out and see some intense basketball with a chance to witness David vs Goliath upsets. For smaller programs trying to build momentum like UVU and Weber State, it would present a chance to share the stage with the proverbial big brother schools like U of U and BYU.
Speaking of the two schools, taking the Holy War to a neutral site in the midst of a bigger picture tournament may be just what the doctor ordered for the rivalry. Perhaps a neutral site and the idea that it would be just another game in the midst of an in-state extravaganza would dampen the vitriol of past experiences.
Obviously this idea isn’t perfect. The logistics and economics would have to be sorted out before anything could come to fruition. I don’t profess to be an expert in any of that, but I think it’s high time the conversation got started. If the university programs and the fans would buy in, it could become a tradition to look forward to every year in the world of Utah college basketball.
I grew up on a farm in Burley, Idaho, but I’ve always had an intense love of sports. I’m studying journalism in an attempt to turn my love into a career. I’m a huge Utah Jazz, Tennessee Titans, and San Jose Sharks fan. If it’s a sport, I’ll watch it.