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Saturday, October 25, 2014         

FERD'S WORDS


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Fresno State's screwdriver hit the target this time

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED:



For years Fresno State officials have scoffed at the charge one of its fans flung a screwdriver that narrowly missed the back of University of Hawaii football coach June Jones in Bulldog Stadium.

They issued a grudging apology for the infamous 2002 "incident," but nevertheless remain contemptuous of the claim, dismissing it as urban myth.

But now, you wonder, if it wasn't the Bulldogs themselves who effectively backstabbed UH and the rest of the Western Athletic Conference with a pivotal role in Wednesday's breakaway.

It is the Bulldogs, whose president John Welty is credited with making the motion for a solidarity pact, that turned the tide of what would have been a milestone WAC victory into a crippling defeat by taking Nevada with them.

Solidarity apparently coming with a short shelf life some places.

Unlike Logan, Utah, where Utah State held resolute in its commitment and was the first WAC team to receive -- and reject -- an MWC invitation.

"We were committed to uphold our agreement with fellow WAC members," Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes said in a statement. "We respectfully declined MWC interest and believed all WAC members would remain committed to our agreement."

So, too, did UH, and as the remaining WAC schools begin to pick up the pieces from their latest and most shattering defections, it is hard to picture any of it taking place without the Bulldogs.

That's a disappointing supposition considering the Bulldogs have been the most enduring fixture on UH's football schedule with 42 meetings in 72 years. It smacks of a painful and egregious betrayal by the second-longest active WAC member next to UH.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson and Utah State president Stan Albrecht had painstakingly worked for more than six weeks to bring Brigham Young University around to the idea of returning to the WAC after a 10-year absence.

The Cougars were exploring independence for their football program and wanted a home for the rest of their teams, one the WAC was willing to provide.

It would have been a signal to other schools, just like it was in 1998 when seven others followed the Cougars from the WAC to the MWC. Without BYU on board then, there would have likely been no MWC.

You think Boise State wouldn't have had second and third thoughts about following through on that move to the MWC if BYU and Utah were no longer there?

Who knows? San Diego State and UNLV might have followed. They would have had reason to at least kick the tires.

Which is why Benson suggested the solidarity agreement pledging members to stay in the WAC for at least five years or pay a $5 million exit fee as insurance against an MWC raid. "I should have made it $20 million," Benson lamented yesterday.

Seven of the eight members (departing Boise State wasn't included) signed on, which, under WAC operating rules requiring 75 percent approval, made it policy. So when the MWC did make an 11th-hour desperation raid, the first school it approached, Utah State, held firm.

Nevada was also reported to have hesitated on making the jump. But the Bulldogs were all too willing to make the move and, from the way their announcements were timed, it isn't hard to imagine they had a word or two on the subject with the Wolf Pack.

Call it Bulldog betrayal. Only this time don't expect any apologies, sincere or otherwise.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.






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