The Utes are a better fit. They’re the kind of research institution that the Pac-10 prefers. Some say they are more “liberal” in their approach to academics, and that’s true, too. Their way of doing business is more in line with what Pac-10 schools do. As for athletics, football in particular, Utah’s accomplishment in winning two BCS bowls since 2005 is remarkable.
BYU, conversely, is conservative and is owned not only by a church, but a church that supported Proposition 8, that won’t allow its teams to play on Sunday, and that keeps a watchful eye on the academic pursuits of its professors. While it’s a stellar institution that’s extremely difficult for students to get into, it’s more limited in graduate-level research. It’s a terrific university, but a different one — unlike any in the Pac-10.
When I worked in Los Angeles, I talked with a number of Pac-10 athletic directors who were in favor of getting BYU into the league because whenever their teams played the Cougars, thousands of more tickets were sold. Had it been up to them, BYU would be in. The holdup was with certain school presidents, for the aforementioned reasons
While many complain that athletics weaken research and teaching at College Football Factory Schools, this suggests that College Football not only offers Research I schools more money for research, it helps support and maintain a certain academic culture necessary for research.
Update: to see how academic standards fall short at BYU, read this on how Jeffrey Nielsen, a non-tenure track professor was fired for his freedom of speech.