Why Was Utah Chosen as the Opponent?

My blog will be less regular from now to the end of summer as I deal with some other things. Keep the ideas coming; some of my best blogs come from researching questions readers submit. Now, back to Carlisle’s 1903 postseason trip to the West Coast.

One of the questions I was asked was why did Pop Warner pick the University of Utah as an opponent. My guess is that Utah was located in a location that was convenient and that they had the potential of drawing a large enough crowd of ticket payers to make stopping for the game worthwhile. A basic reason for a having a game somewhere between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean was to keep the players sharp and to keep them off the train for awhile and give them some physical activity. Some other western colleges and universities met these criteria, too. What think made the difference was that Salt Lake City was a regional rail hub through which the team would likely be passing anyway. The question was, which team should Warner choose to play?

The only viable choices were Utah and Utah State because Brigham Young was not yet fielding college-level football teams at that time. Utah had had a pretty nice run from 1900 to 1902 but had lost to all of its college-level opponents in 1903. Utah State, on the other hand, had a poor record from 1900 to 1902 but had beaten both its college-level opponents in 1903 and one of them was Utah! The issue of how large a crowd Utah State could draw in Salt Lake City was probably asked. Utah State is located in Logan, 82 miles from Salt Lake City, so its supporters could make the game. But would Salt Lake City residents turn out? The thought was probably that they wouldn’t turn out as well as they would for a game with Utah and State probably wouldn’t bring enough people from Logan to offset this difference. Shock! Shock! Money probably played a role in the decision.

To be continued….

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