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BYU To The WAC Was Code Named 'The Project' And How It All Went Down

BYU To The WAC Was Code Named 'The Project' And How It All Went Down

This deal between the WAC and BYU was a done deal with contracts in place and they even had a code name called 'The Project.' This has to be proof that this was done, because people out there are saying nothing was done because there were no contracts.. This was a done deal and The Salt Lake Tribune is bringing light to how 'The Project' came to be:

Documents and e-mail correspondence between the parties, obtained by The Tribune from USU through an open records request, show how close the plan came to being finalized; how MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson's last-minute wheeling and dealing scuttled it; how television sports giant ESPN was involved from the beginning; and how desperately USU wanted instate rival BYU to declare its independence in football and join its conference in everything else.

The Project started to fall apart when Fresno State and Nevada accepted a bid to leave the WAC even though they just agreed to a $5 million buyout for leaving the league.  One odd item is thatNevada was one of the schools to be on this bandwagon.  One note that this Tribune article mentions is that Craig Thompson said he added Fresno State and Nevada to strengthen the league, but in reality it was a move to block BYU from having a cushy landing spot.

More emails between WAC members and commissioner Benson all but had this deal wrapped up last week:

Another Benson e-mail tells 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."

BYU had everything in place as did the WAC, but to most peoples surprise Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson made a quick striking move to stomp this plan, by inviting Fresno State and Nevada.  Also, what number was BYU trying to get, because the reported deal from ESPN was about $4 million per year to show maybe six games.  So, had ESPN and BYU been able to get a deal done on last Tuesday on August 17th the special meeting would have been called for Wednesday with BYU making the announcement and we all would be discussing BYU as an independent.

The vote to add BYU was 7-0 with Nevada not voting.  That vote was taken prior to August 13th because an email came out that day saying that the stance toward media would be 'no comment.'  So, for what ever reason a deal was not made at that time and when word leaked out Craig Thompson pounced.

A question to ask is why did Nevada not vote?  Did they not believe in the move, well that would have resulted in a no vote, so this is very interesting to why they did not vote either way.

Craig Thompson got word that the BYU issue was real on Monday August 16th, so in my opinion he did lie by saying he did not know what BYU was planning to do.  Thompson saying that he invited Fresno State and Nevada to bolster the league was a bold face lie and was a way to hurt the WAC and force BYU to stay in the league.

So a few questions to ask are why did Nevada and Fresno State leave? Utah State had the opportunity to do so, but they stood behind their agreement with the WAC even though they were invited first. The night of the press conference Utah State felt betrayed by their now former league mates:

And the night ended with a note from Michael Kennedy, USU vice president for federal and state relations, to Albrecht as he watched Thompson's news conference announcing the two additions: "I'm watching the [Mountain West Television Network] and feeling sick to my stomach. Any silver lining?"

Albrecht's reply: "Unfortunately, no. Thompson hasn't returned my call. Not a good sign."

Back to Nevada and Fresno State on why they left.  The money was not much better and considering adding two more schools in small (Reno) to decent sized (Fresno) markets that would not drive the price up to what the Mountain West currently pays to nine teams.  The BCS could be an implication because the Mountain West was close to being a BCS league and even though Nevada and Fresno State's stats would not have counted (but would have helped) they may have been hoping the league became an automatic qualifying league.

That would have brought in more money to those schools.  Maybe the biggest issue was that BYU had a lesser buyout of only $2 million while the rest had five million, BYU could have left for a BCS league with no penalty, or that the BYU deal was only for five seasons.  Something had to of change for Fresno and Nevada to make the move, and the only other option to consider is travel and going to Louisiana Tech and Hawaii was too much every year for the minor sports, and the one trip to TCU was not a big deal.

Finally there is this email that had Utah State unprepared this was also obtained from Jay Drew of the Salt Lake Tribune. This first part sets up the email:

It went out from USU's Albrecht to Fresno State president John Welty the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 17. Obviously, Welty/Fresno State would accept the MWC's invitation the next day. But it illustrates how quickly the tables turned in the bloodbath between conferences. Remember, Boise State is in the WAC now, but agreed in June to join the MWC (beginning in 2011).

"John, you will be visiting with [Boise State president] Bob Kustra shortly. I would appreciate it if you would not let him know about this message from me, but the purpose of his call is to invite FSU, Nevada and Utah State to consider joining the MWC.

I basically told him that they were more than a day late and a dollar short. He did tell me that BYU's president told them in a conference call this morning that the BYU-WAC deal is a done deal and will be formally announced in the next few days.

That has left the MWC scrambling. They are concerned about losing their TV contract entirely, as well as worrying about other teams now looking to move.

Bob put a positive face on this and indicated that they could survive as an 8-team league, but they have clearly been caught unprepared for this. I think this puts us in [a] very strong position to take some additional positive steps forward."


This realignment process was extremely cut throat and no one looks good. BYU tried to sneak away in the night with back room dealings, Fresno State and Nevada had a deal in place then jumped ship, and Craig Thompson made the move to invite Fresno and Nevada to spite BYU and not allow them to have a place to play.  Now Utah State who did the honorable thing may be stuck with an extremely watered down league or possibly even no league in a few years.

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