It's hard to believe it's been one year since Utah officially became a member of the Pac-12. I say this because, at least to me, it doesn't feel like a year. It's been quick and extremely rapid. I'm still trying to figure out, and digest, just what exactly happened in the Utes' inaugural Pac-12 season.
Back last year, I was asked to write an introductory article on the Pac-12 website and in that article, I likened the whole experience of adjusting, and changing, to that of being the new kid in school. A year later, I can't help but think that feeling still exists. I might be alone in my thoughts, but I still feel like that new kid at school and because of it, because I feel Utah is still trying to find their place in this conference, I can't help but feel lost at times.
Don't get me wrong, Pac-12 fans have been extraordinary in making us feel welcomed, but there is something missing. I couldn't really put my finger on it throughout the regular season, but once I had time to reflect and go over the entire experience, it finally hit me. It's history.
We don't have much history in this conference. Our history is essentially limited to just one year. The impression of Utah is still being developed. This hit me really when, needing a football fix, I found myself watching old YouTube videos of Pac-10 games from years ago.
Every team has at least one moment, one memory, involving themselves and another old Pac-10 program. Whether it's Arizona defeating #1 Washington in 1992 or the famous Cal-Stanford game from ten years earlier. There are dozens of contests between these teams over the history that have had some sort of meaning to their fans. They're no different than the memories we created in the old Mountain West - plays and games that can be instantly recalled by uttering only a few words. If I just say Ben Moa to Utah fans, you instantly know what I'm talking about.
Because we're new, because we've yet to create as many moments, or been a part of many moments, it continues to feel like we're still trying to find our place in this conference. We're at the lunchroom table hearing the retelling of a time so-and-so got busted by his parents breaking curfew. Everyone is laughing and reminiscing and the story to us, while potentially funny, doesn't have near the impact because, well, we weren't there when it happened.
This is all new to us. We're still trying to create our own story so that, a decade or two from now, someone else can retell it. Remember that one time #1 USC rolled into Salt Lake and we knocked 'em off in a high scoring, back-and-forth contest?
We don't have that yet.
That's not to say I haven't enjoyed our first year in the Pac-12 or that there won't be any memories to take away from the last season. Certainly that USC game was big and it was enjoyable watching Utah and Washington State slide around in the snow, but on the whole, what we've done, what we've seen, is only a smidgen of what these other fans have experienced over the course of decades and generations.
So, as we enter year two, my hope is that there are moments created from this upcoming season that we can carry with us for years to come. That will require doing something special. A moment is created through either adversity, surprise or dominance. I mentioned Ben Mao, and the instant memory he brings. Here's another: 1988. All I have to do is throw out that year, and we all know what I'm talking about. If you don't, and you don't want to feel left out, I'm of course speaking of the '88 BYU game where Utah, for the first time in a decade, knocked off the Cougars. It was a 57-28 thumping that was both a surprise and total dominance.
Last year, throughout the entire Pac-12 slate, there just wasn't that memory you'll pass on to your children and your children's children. Maybe it's too much to expect it from just one season, I concede that, but had Utah not had their field goal blocked against USC and the Utes win in overtime, I'm guessing that game, that memory, is pretty lasting. Likewise, had Utah defeated Colorado and played in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game, regardless of the outcome, it's something Ute fans probably remember for a long, long time.
None of that happened. Maybe this is why I feel a bit left out here. When Pac-12 fans talk about a certain game or play, we just kind of have to nod our heads because we're still waiting for ours.
Fortunately, we're not going anywhere. We'll be back this season and then the season after that and, in twenty years, I anticipate we'll still be in the Pac-12. By then, we'll have our memories and moments. We'll have pulled off an upset and we'll win one of those improbable contests, like Arizona's Leap by the Lake victory over the Huskies in 2001 (I swear it's just a coincidence, Huskies fans, that I've brought up two painful losses to the Wildcats). They will come. But for now? We'll have to wait and just nod our heads.