I can't repeat gbuins excellent post welcoming Colorado to the PAC 10 as I do not live in Utah while he actually does live in Colorado. However, there is an excellent post explaining Utah on our future PAC xx brethren website Block U.
I have visited Utah regularly, however, and have come to know the state well. I think many people from the west coast and the east have a lot misconceptions about the state and about Salt Lake City. I also have some thoughts on the University of Utah better known to locals as "The U".
Let's start off with this: The U is most definitely not BYU
BYU is The U's arch rival and they differ in about every way possible. Many of the comments I have read about The U joining the PAC 10 are more applicable to Provo, Utah, and the BYU campus.
The U is not a religious school. It is a public, coeducational research university. BYU is owned by the LDS (Mormon) church. At BYU, students are required to sign a very strict code of conduct that goes as far as prohibiting students from drinking alcohol even when they are off campus. Obviously there are Mormons at The U, but The U is a state school and includes students from a relatively wide background.
Second, The U is in Salt Lake City, which is a culturally diverse city. Democrat minority Leader of the Utah State House, David Lictcack, who is Jewish, was quoted as saying he chose to live in Salt Lake City because he and his wife were seeking a "diverse area, culturally, ethnically and politically to raise our children." Salt Lake has a 30% minority population and has had Democratic Party Mayors longer than Los Angeles. While the city is the world headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormons are a minority in the city itself.
Look, I am not saying Berkley is in any danger of losing its status as the most liberal city in the PAC 10, but I will say that those scared of being accosted by kids with white shirts and ties on bicycles who don't drink caffeine are just wrong. I had a blast in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Olympics, and have been to some great restaurants and good Microbreweries right downtown. I know Lobbyists who spend all their time in state capitals and think of Salt Lake City as one of the best to visit. Salt Lake City is not Los Angeles...but it sure in the heck ain't Pullman, Eugene, or Corvallis either.
And if you're not at Rice Stadium, there's no end of things to do in and around Salt Lake City. Park City, which is only 25 minutes away, offers some of the best skiing in the world and is one of the only places amateurs can go bobsledding, even in the summertime. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Got some extra time on your hands? Utah has five National Parks. Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches, and Capital Reef are all within a half day's drive from the city.
On the Name Utes. "University of Utah athletics teams are known as the "Utes" in honor of the American Indian tribe for which the state of Utah is named. . . . The University of Utah, in cooperation with the Ute Tribal Business Committee, is proud to share in the tradition of the Ute tribe through the "Utes" nickname. The University's mascot, "Swoop," represents the red-tailed hawk, a bird indigenous to the state of Utah.
Utah officially has won 20 NCAA Championships, more than most PAC 10 schools but nowhere near UCLA, Stanford, etc. They won the NCAA Basketball Championship in 1944 (the NIT was bigger at the time but they won that as well in 1947).
Further, like Colorado they are dominant in skiing. The Utes have won 10 national skiing championships. It seems the conference of champions made a real effort to corner the market on skiing by adding Colorado and Utah.
The U is dominant school in the NCAA in one sport, Women's gymnastics, although it is worth noting that UCLA beat them for the championship this year. According to The U website: "Utah is the only team to qualify to every Championship in the past 34 years, never finishing lower than 10th. Utah has won a record ten National Championships and been runner-up eight times." (Note the NCAA says they have won nine. However, the most impressive stat may be the fact that they averaged 14,213 per meet in attendance for gymnastics in 2010.)
This post is not going to address the controversy over division alignment nor expansion generally. Nor did I want to delve into the issues of Basketball or Football in this post. I just want to give everyone a brief overview of the rest of the U. Welcome Utah.