I have always firmly believed that a true Utah fan doesn't hate byu more than he likes Utah. I truly believe that a lot of Utah fans want byu to lose more than they want Utah to win and I think it's wrong to think that way. Nonetheless, there is nothing more rewarding than being successful over your most bitter rival. That's what makes this basketball season all the more painful. Utah and byu are headed in different directions. I can't help but cringe at the direction the two basketball programs have headed the past few years.
It was only 10 years ago that Utah had a firm grasp on not only being the basketball power in the conference but also held a substantial advantage over its rival. The Byu basketball program was in disarray and Utah's was flying high. Utah was even considered a national power house and Byu was a laughing stock. Games between the two teams even lost a lot of luster because of the disparity between the two programs. It wasn't a question of whether or not if Utah would win, it was a question of by how much. Players like Andre Miller, Keith Van Horn, and Michael Doleac starred at Utah and were coached by Majerus; who was considered one of the top coaches in the country. Meanwhile the byu had well .....I don't even remember who played for the Byu at the time and it hired Steve Cleveland to revive its program. Byu didn't even sell out its home games against Utah. This year Utah didn't sell out its home game against byu.
I remember listening to Cleveland speak when he was hired at the byu. He promised their fans that he would get the basketball program to level that it would compete with Utah again. I remember thinking, "Fat Chance," and laughed at the notion.
Well, my worst nightmare has now occurred. Byu not only competes with Utah, its program is in much better standing than Utah's. Byu is now coached by one of Cleveland's assistants and they are tied for the conference lead while Utah is fighting to stay out of the seller. Just thinking about it brings tears to me eye. To pour salt into the wound, the MWC is as strong in basketball this year as it ever has been and byu is still atop the lead race. It hurts more and more as this season rolls on.
It's discouraging to think how things have changed. The most depressing thing is, the change in power among Utah and byu has had more to do with Utah coming down than it has with byu rising up. Ten years ago Utah's basketball program was almost to the point where getting to the Sweet 16 was not enough. Utah went to the Final game in '98 and after that, just getting to the tournament and winning a game there was no longer considered meeting expectations. We as Utah fans were spoiled and we didn't appreciate it. Wouldn't it be great right now to have a team that was capable of winning a game in the NCAA tournament? We're so far away from that fate with Giacoletti this year that it seems like winning a game in the NCAA tournament would be like winning a national championship.
Byu beat us at home this year for the first time since 1994. The sorry thing is, it was expected. It would have been an upset for Utah to beat Byu in the Huntsman Center. I can't imagine the massacre we'll experience in Provo this year. It could be uglier than last night's loss to Air Force.
I want to return to the prominence we once enjoyed. It just doesn't seem possible that things could become this bad so quickly. Utah is in the seller and byu sits atop the conference standings. I just hope this doesn't become the norm for years to come. Byu's program is no where near where Utah's was 10 years ago but it is a lot closer to it than Utah is right now. I just hope things turn good again as quickly as they went bad.