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The Utah Utes football program is a college football team that currently competes in the Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12) of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of NCAA Division I and represents the University of Utah. The Utah college football program began in 1892 and has played home games at Rice–Eccles Stadium since 1927. They have won twenty-four conference championships in five conferences during their history, and they have a cumulative record of 628 wins, 435 losses, and 31 ties.
The Utes have a record of 13–4 (.765) in bowl games, which is the highest winning percentage in the nation among teams that have had ten or more bowl appearances. Among Utah's bowl appearances are two games from the Bowl Championship Series (BCS): the Fiesta Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. In the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, Utah defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers 35–7, and in the 2009 Sugar Bowl, they defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 31–17. During those seasons, Utah was a member of the Mountain West Conference, whose champion does not receive an automatic invitation to a BCS bowl. The Utes were the first team from a conference without an automatic bid to play in a BCS bowl game—colloquially known as being a BCS Buster—and the first BCS Buster to play in a second BCS Bowl.
At the start of Utah's football history in 1892, the school did not have a conference affiliation so Utah played as an independent. That changed in 1910 when Utah joined the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The Utes have played in five different conferences in their history. As of 2011, Utah football competes in the Pacific-12 Conference (South Division).
Beginning of Utah football: 1892–1924
During Utah's first year in 1892, the Utes won one game and lost two, including a loss to future rival Utah State. The first two games were against the local YMCA, but no one knows when these contests took place. Utah's first game against another college, Utah Agricultural College (now called "Utah State"), was scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, but was postponed one day due to a snow storm. Utah A.C. won 12–0.
Utah did not field a team in 1893, but resumed playing in 1894. One other season in Utah's history has been cancelled: in 1918 Utah did not field a football team due to World War I.
Utah had its first sustained success when, in 1904, it hired Joe Maddock to coach football, as well as basketball and track. During his six seasons, he coached the football team to a record of 28–9–1 (.750). The school enthusiastically embraced the former Michigan Wolverine. In 1905, the Galveston Daily News reported, "He has the Mormons all football crazy. He has written here to say that his team now holds the championship of Utah, Montana, Wyoming, and the greater part of Colorado. When he won the hard-fought battle with Colorado College a week ago the Salt Lake City papers said: 'Maddock' is a new way of saying success. The great Michigan tackle has taken boys who never saw a football before and made them the star players of the Rocky Mountain States." In early 1910, Maddock retired from coaching (although he later coached a year at Oregon.)
Fred Bennion coached the Utes from 1910 to 1913. 1910 was also Utah's first season as a member of a conference, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC). Bennion finished with a record of 16–8–3 (.648) during his four seasons. Nelson Norgren finished with a record of 13–11 (.542) during his coaching years from 1913 to 1917. Utah did not field a team for the 1918 season because of a shortage of players due to World War I. When play resumed in 1919, Thomas Fitzpatrick started his football coaching career. He continued as football coach until end of the 1924 season. His teams finished with a record of 23–17–3 (.570). Utah won their first conference championships in these early years, in 1922.