Brigham Young had plenty of co-conspirators in its planned move out of the Mountain West Conference. Utah State for one. ESPN for another.
Yes, that's right. The four-letter network was involved from the beginning.
Documents and email correspondence obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune through an open records request detailed how the Cougars planned to declare their independence in football and join the Western Athletic Conference in all other sports.
Utah State president Stan Albrecht, who has been criticized for not accepting an offer to move the Aggies from the WAC to the Mountain West after news of BYU's planned move began to trickle out, had incentive to stay the course. He had masterminded with WAC commissioner Karl Benson, BYU president Cecil Samuelson, Fresno State president John Welty, Nevada president Milt Glick and ESPN to spring the Cougars.
Benson notified Welty in an Aug. 13th email that he had talked with Burke Magnus, ESPN director of collegiate sports programs, but that the network was not willing to renegotiate its agreement with the WAC "until after the BYU deal gets done."
In another email, Benson told WAC members: "I talked to BYU reps several times over the weekend and they are getting close to finalizing the deal with ESPN. … It appears BYU is prepared to go forward despite not getting the exact number they were hoping for. … Assuming they reach a deal today Pres. Samuelson will then call for a special meeting of the Church Council — more than likely Wednesday — to recommend the deal to go independent in football and to join the WAC in all other sports. It is expected that the [Board of Trustees] will approve the recommendation."
As the deal began to come together, Albrecht gleefully wrote on Aug. 17 that Boise State president Bob Kustra's "world is crumbling around him and he is desperate."
Kustra had guided Boise State out of the WAC and into the Mountain West in June.
"All signatures are in place. I don't think either John [Welty] or Milt [Glick] has $5 million to buy their way out," wrote Albrecht, referring to the WAC's hefty penalty for teams leaving the conference.
But the deal disintegrated when Welty and Glick turned their backs on the deal hours after receiving an offer to join the Mountain West from commissioner Craig Thompson.
Thompson declined — through a spokesman — to comment Thursday night.