COMMENTARY — This was a lot of fun last year, and two days before Christmas my attention span is that of a six-year old lying in bed and waiting for Santa Claus to come. Accordingly, here are twelve not necessarily random thoughts about sports on The Hill tied (albeit loosely) to the Twelve Days of Christmas.
On the 12th day of Christmas, I got gifts from the U:
Eleven National Titles
Ten Basketball Wins
Nine Ladies Swinging
Eight All-Pac-12 Utes
Seven Years and Counting
Sixth-Ranked Red Rocks
Five New OC’s
Four in a Row
Two Draft Picks
And a Hoops Win over BYU!
Twelve Canadians — Every time I go through this exercise, I will always pay tribute to Bob & Doug McKenzie’s version of the Twelve Days of Christmas as one of my all-time favorites. There are more than 12 hosers playing for the Utes right now (in fact, enough to get through the Twelve Days of Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day). However, because the song only goes as high as 12, this is where I have to shoehorn them in. The following are the Utah Utes that currently hail from the Great White North: 1. Dallin Bachynski (men’s basketball); 2. Myles Sullivan (golf); 3. Andy Trow (skiing); 4. Paolina Carnevele (swimming); 5. Ashlyn Karosas (swimming); 6. Kersten Merry (swimming); 7. Selin Ozturk (swimming); 8. Louis-Phillippe Gacon (tennis); 9. Paige Crozon (women’s basketball); 10. Michelle Plouffe (women’s basketball); 11. Emily Potter (women’s basketball); 12. Taryn Wicijowski (women’s basketball); 13. Nansy Damianova (gymnastics); 14. Stephanie Lemeza (women’s soccer), and 15. Alyssa Johnson (track).
Eleven National Titles — Utah’s skiers hold 11 national titles all by themselves. By my count, Utah boasts a total of 24 national titles. The Utah men’s skiing team won a national championship in 1981 (1), and then women won in 1978 (2). The teams won the combined national championship in 1983 (3), 1984 (4), 1986 (5), 1987 (6), 1988 (7), 1993 (8), 1996 (9), 1997 (10) and 2003 (11). The Red Rocks have won 10 national championships as arguably the most dominant athletic team on campus, including titles in 1981 (12), 1982 (13), 1983 (14), 1984 (15), 1985 (16), 1986 (17), 1990 (18), 1992 (19), 1994 (20) and 1995 (21). The men’s basketball team won the NCAA title in 1944 (22) and the NIT crown in 1947 (23). Utah’s rugby team won the inaugural 2010 Collegiate Rugby Championship (24). The Pac-12 calls itself “The Conference of Champions” and Utah certainly fits the bill.
Ten Basketball Wins — The 10-1 Runnin’ Utes are one questionable flagrant foul away from being undefeated. I know they have not played the most rigorous non-conference schedule, but it has been nice to see them winning again. With conference play starting in a few weeks, we’ll see if the Runnin’ Utes have built some chemistry and confidence playing lesser opponents, or if they have just learned a lot of bad habits in playing down to the level of their competition.
Nine Ladies Swinging — Utah’s women’s tennis team has nine ladies swinging rackets from five different countries — the U.S., Czech Republic, Brazil, Slovakia and Germany. In the San Diego State Fall Tennis Classic II in November, the doubles team of Callie Craig and Sarah Pham claimed the title in the doubles Black bracket.
Eight All-Pac-12 Utes — Defensive end Trevor Reilly and punter Tom Hackett were named to the 2013 All-Pac-12 Conference first team as voted on by the conference coaches. Defensive lineman Tenny Pelepoi made the second team, with honorable mentions going to wide receiver Dres Anderson, offensive lineman Vyncent Jones, cornerback Keith McGill, kicker Andy Phillips and linebacker Jason Whittingham. While half of these players were seniors and will move on, the other half will be returning next year, including Hackett, Anderson, Phillips and Whittingham.
Seven Years and Counting — Hoops assistant coach Tommy Connor is in his seventh year with the Runnin’ Utes, including four years as an assistant under the late Rick Majerus, and now in his third year under head coach Larry Krystkowiak. As a player, Connor was a four-year starter at point guard for the Runnin’ Utes way back in the day when I used to sit in the student section. The break in Connor’s tenure as a coach with Utah was a 12-year stint as the head coach of Westminister College in Salt Lake City. Here’s hoping that Connor’s return to the Utah bench coincides with the Runnin’ Utes steady rise to being competitive on the hardwood once again.
Sixth-Ranked Red Rocks — The Red Rocks were ranked sixth in the nation in the preseason coaches’ poll released a few weeks ago. These gals are perennial contenders and the No. 6 ranking is going to provide plenty of motivation to prove that they are better than people think. The Red Rocks begin their season with a quad meet against BYU, Southern Utah and Boise State in the Huntsman Center on Saturday, Jan. 11. Do yourself a favor and start the New Year out right by treating yourself to an entertaining evening watching these elite athletes in action.
Five New OC’s — With the recent hire of Dave Christensen as Utah’s new Offensive Coordinator, Utah has now had five (count ‘em — FIVE) Offensive Coordinators in the last six years (including Dennis Erickson, Brian Johnson, Norm Chow, and Dave Schramm). I know the Utes’ offense has been its Achilles heel ever since Brian Johnson graduated, but I’m not convinced that a continual revolving door of Offensive Coordinators is the solution.
Four in a Row — Utah has now beaten BYU in football for four consecutive years. Say what you will about Utah’s struggles in the Pac-12, but if the Cougars can’t even beat the Utes then can you imagine how poorly BYU would have fared the past few years if they had been playing in the Pac-12? Nobody is going to miss the Holy War more than me as it goes on hiatus for the next two years.
Three Freshmen — The Runnin’ Utes have three true freshman on the team, and all three have already seen significant minutes on the court in games. Leading the trio is local standout Parker Van Dyke from East High School, just a hop, skip and a jump down the hill from the U. Van Dyke has already established himself as a regular contributor off of the bench. Ahmad Fields from Washington, D.C. is very athletic and has displayed significant moxie in a handful of games thus far. Kenneth Ogbe from Germany is still a work in progress, but has shown flashes of potential when given the chance.
Two Draft Picks — Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is on his way to being a star in the NFL after being picked in the first round by the Carolina Panthers. Defensive end Joe Kruger left school a year early, and was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles in the seventh round. There are currently 30 Utes playing in the NFL.
And a Hoops Win over BYU! — I know, I know, it was just one game. But when you’ve lost seven straight to the kitty-cats from down south, that one win can be very, very satisfying. Here’s hoping that the Runnin’ Utes’ season is not defined merely by a win over BYU, but rather it will be a Happy New Year with plenty left to cheer about.
Dwayne Vance is a sports columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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