Maverik Inc., Utah State University, The Herald Journal and The State Review Committee all got it wrong. Maverik should not have tried to keep the entire document out of public hands. Utah State University should have known there was no avoiding GRAMA law when they were working on the contract with Maverik. The State Review Committee should have redacted pertinent financial information before ordering the contract to be released. The Herald Journal, in reality, is the party least at fault but the issues go back further with them.
Let's start with the most egregious offender, Maverik. Maverik has been through naming a stadium before and have also dealt with public record requests before. A very similar thing happened when Maverik bought the naming rights to the old E Center in West Valley City, Utah.
Maverik should have known what they were getting into when the entered negotiations with Utah State to name the stadium. They probably knew GRAMA laws yet they tried to keep the entire contract private. This was the fatal flaw that ensured someone would bring this before the State Review Committee, and put Utah State University in a lose-lose situation.
Utah State stood by Maverik in the face of the request and subsequent review and cannot be blamed for this. The Maverik deal is worth millions to the university. There are not a plethora of companies lining up to give a small market team millions to plaster their name all over the stadium. Utah State did error in the contract portion of this deal. As a public university they should have known they would be required to fully disclose the contract to the public. USU left the contract the way it was. Whether this was for fear of upsetting Maverik or thinking they could actually keep it private will most likely never be known.
The review board did have a very hard task Thursday. They went back and forth multiple times weighing all issues. While I disagree with the decision to fully release the contract, they were put in a tough position that I do not envy. They made their decision on what they believe to the public's best interest. They were very concerned about the precedent it would set if they allowed this contract to remain out of public hands, which is understandable.
They did, however, have a chance to make it all better. They could have fixed the errors of both Maverik and Utah State University by just redacting a few financial disclosures as well as any "trade secrets" (although I doubt the recipe to a Bahama Mama is contained inside the contract.) A thing as simple as redacting the schedule of the payments Maverik would make to USU would have afforded Maverik the financial discretion they should have been entitled to.
Whether it is right or not there is a lot of anger being directed at The Herald Journal. The frustration with the Herald Journal goes well beyond the records request, which they have every right to seek. There is frustration from the Aggie fan base that the Herald Journal struggles to cover its hometown team. This coverage only got worse when the lead Aggie writer Wade Denniston took a job within Utah State. These frustrations boiled over when the Herald Journal created an outcry for the public records. The previous lack of good Utah State coverage made the request seem very disingenuous.
This was a long drawn out process that didn't have to go the way it did. Every party, save maybe the Herald Journal, could have done something at every step of the process to avoid such a mess. In the end all parties involved in this got it wrong and everybody loses.