By Dr. Ken 


There are certain phrases that instantly allow individuals, either well acquainted or who have never before met, to relate to each other. Many come from popular movies and even those who are not cinema buffs “get it” when they hear specific lines uttered by others, perhaps bringing a knowing smile of recognition, or a following line in response, from the same movie or song. Each generation has had their “signature lines” with many having achieved iconic status through the decades. Rhett Butler’s “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” from 1939’s Gone With The Wind to The Godfather’s “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” to Dirty Harry’s “Go ahead, make my day” are familiar to the public of all ages it seems. For those of later generations, Arnold’s (no last name needed) “I’ll be back” and John Belushi’s “Toga, Toga” have instant recognition but a favorite in many New York City area neighborhoods has always been the exchange between the Judge and attorney in the movie My Cousin Vinny because it truly is us! With the underrated but very fine late actor Fred Gwynne as Judge Chamberlain Haller and Joe Pesci as the attorney Vinny, the exchange that led to the comment heard daily in our area, plays out as follows:

Vinny: “Is it possible, the two utes…”

Judge Haller: “The two what? What was that word?”

Vinny: “Uh, what word?”

Judge Haller: “Two what?”

Vinny: “What?”

Judge Haller: “Uh, did you say ‘Utes?’”  

Vinny: “Yeah, two utes.”

Judge Haller: “What is a ute?”

Vinny: “Oh excuse me your honor, two youths.”


“Did you say ‘Utes?’” has become a punch line used in many instances but other than those who are ardent college football enthusiasts in the western United States, Utah University football, has rarely caused a stir on a national level. Yet, when one hears “Did you say ‘Utes?’” there are some football related specifics that immediately jump to mind.



Filed under “SPORTSCASTERS SOMEHOW DID NOT KNOW” the lack of general knowledge and the lack of exposure of the western colleges allowed the following to slip through the cracks: In the national statistics, the so-called western schools of the Skyline and Border Conferences produced 1960’s top two rushers; six of the top ten rushers for yards-per-carry; five of the top ten scoring leaders; and four of the top ten rushing teams. Above, Merlin Olsen, future pro football great, teamed with future Packers DE Lionel Aldridge, to pave the way for the Utah State running attack which topped the nation in 1960.



This might be an appropriate place to comment upon the absolute ignorance of most current day sportscasters and analysts. Their so called sense of football history begins in the mid-1980’s with a token nod given to big names like Vince Lombardi and Johnny Unitas, and of course, they display abominable usage of grammar and language. Many former players ascend to the sports desk directly from the field and we certainly do not, or should not, expect them to utilize appropriate word tense or structure. It is unfair of the public to expect minimal communication skills from “an attendee, not a graduate of” a university where even after four years of attendance, they may have fallen more than sixty credits short of graduation requirements! As one so infamously stated in response to a question he wanted to ponder for a moment, much to the everlasting embarrassment of his former Indiana located university, “I’ll have to marinate about that one.” It is an expression that has now been incorporated into the lexicon of a number of sports journalists, not regrettably, in a humorous way, but in a serious one, as if “marinate,” something one might do to tenderize meat, is an acceptable substitution for “meditate” which would in fact though inappropriate in this context, at least indicate the use of the mind for a bit of thought. “Real” sportscasters however, many of whom majored in journalism, sports journalism, English, some type of sports management, or actual broadcast journalism, have the responsibility of knowing that “trickeration,” and “audiblize,” are not real words but are made up. Others like “physicality” were also made up in the early to mid-1970’s and when sports broadcasting became big television business, continued to be thought of (and included in some standard dictionaries) as “legitimate.” These continue to be handed down to the next generation of know-nothing broadcasters. “Did you say ‘Utes?’” would leave but a scant few of these shortsighted experts, relating to the often seen shovel pass play, with a connection to Utah University football. 


In the late 1950’s, Utah football, like all football played in what was then “The Rockies” which included the Skyline and Rocky Mountain Conferences as well as Independents Montana State and the U.S. Air Force Academy, was an unknown commodity throughout most of the country. For East Coast fans, it almost didn’t exist with absent television coverage and a dearth of media interest. When rushing to collect all of the college scores from the Sunday edition of the New York Times newspaper, it was standard procedure to have to wait until Monday in order to see the scores of the Rockies and other western schools. Certainly the interest and coverage was there for the Pacific Coast powers but the Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico based schools were an afterthought. What fans were missing were innovative offensive units that were utilizing the forward pass to produce exciting contests, and “jazzed up” uniforms that gave many of these teams a distinctive appearance.


The 1958 Utah University uniforms featured colorful shoulder and sleeve striping on the jersey, and a traditional Indian head design on the sleeve, a lot of uniform trim for the day. The gleaming red helmets were adorned with a white center stripe and black flanking stripes, topping off a great modernized version of the “old school” look.



One of the obvious problems that the conferences, and area had, was a lack of quality high school football. As former coach and analyst Herman Hickman stated in the 1956 edition of his annual pre-season summary for Sports Illustrated magazine: “In the sparsely settled and widely-scattered environs of the Skyline Conference, football is booming. Greatest handicap has been the scarcity of high school football teams in many areas, making it necessary to recruit players from other sections. Now however, more high schools are playing football, and the quality of young players entering college is improving every year.” However, the theme had not changed a season later, with the 1957 SI pre-season predictions noting that “Out of this high country, large cities and high school football players are a scarce commodity.” The Wild West as it was viewed by easterners, remained the barren plains of the wild west relative to football. There was an absence of professional football until the 1960 Denver Broncos entry to the American Football League, and the limited numbers of high school players resulted in a relative lack of talented collegiate players for the region’s universities.


One could trace the emergence of the Skyline Conference and specifically Utah University football out of this black hole to the November 16, 1957 intersectional clash with the cadets of the Army team. Going against one of the best squads in the country with its backfield tandem of Bob Anderson and ’58 Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins [ see HELMET HUT  http://www.helmethut.com/College/Army/NYUSMA5758.html and

 https://www.gridironmemories.com/shop/item.asp?itemid=1158 ]  on the hallowed grounds of West Point placed Utah and its great quarterback Lee Grosscup squarely on display to the influential eastern press and introduced the nation to Head Coach Jack Curtice’s “Utah Pass.”


Next month, Part Two