Following Clemson’s blowout victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide, University of Utah athletic director Mark Harlan sent out a congratulatory tweet to the national champs that caught the eye of the online community.
Harlan’s follow-up tweet, a response to a fan who asked if a matchup with Clemson was on the horizon, seems to suggest Utah fans can look forward to a future meeting with the newly crowned national champs.
We want to win championships. To do that, you have to beat the champion. We can do this with all invested, each day, everyday. Lets get to work- https://t.co/Jtf9IyLFIl— Mark Harlan (@MarkHarlan_AD) January 8, 2019
If a match-up is indeed in the works (or already finalized), it would certainly bolster Utah’s slate of out of conference opponents, which currently includes a rotating series with BYU through 2022, four home and home series with Wyoming (on the road in 2020 and a Utah home game in 2025), San Diego State (on the road in 2021 and home in 2022), Baylor (on the road in 2023 and home in 2024) and Houston (on the road in 2026 and home in 2027) and several home games against in-state FCS foes, Weber State and Southern Utah. With so many teams already confirmed, the earliest the Utes could face the Tigers is 2023, barring a potential buyout with a previously scheduled team, meaning the BYU series could once again be placed on hold, seeing how the Utes out of conference schedule already includes Weber State on 8/31 and Baylor on 9/9. With only one out of conference opponent confirmed for 2025 and beyond, there are several open spots on Utah’s schedule that could easily be filled by Clemson.
During his introductory press conference in June of last year, Harlan announced to the rest of the nation that it was time to “look out for Utah” under his tutelage, hoping to bring the athletics department up to par with the nation’s elite programs by implementing his philosophy of winning in the “three C’s” – community, classroom and competition. Since then an $80 million stadium expansion has been announced that will bump Rice-Eccles’ capacity to 51,444 and includes new luxury suites and other premium seating options, upgrades to locker rooms, an outdoor patio and more. At that same time, it was revealed that a whopping 95% of Ute student athletes graduate within six years after enrolling, a 5% increase from the previous year. If future schedules do include big-time matchups with the likes of Clemson and others, it’s evident that Harlan is indeed committed to all three points of philosophy.