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BYU still in the picture

After all the fallout of the last two days, Provo, Utah, is still the promised land.

The Western Athletic Conference still has hope that Brigham Young University will accept the WAC’s invitation to join the conference in all sports except football.

And, the University of Hawaii has the Cougars on the line for a 10-year football home-and-home series, UH athletic director Jim Donovan said.

"That could still be on the table," Donovan said.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson said a conference deal with BYU is not impossible, even after the departures of Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West Conference.

During a conference call yesterday, Benson was clearly upset with the moves, calling the decision "selfish" on the part of Fresno State and Nevada.

Jim Donovan
Hawaii Athletic Director
“If we had solidarity and
BYU made the move,
some other Mountain
West schools might have
joined the WAC.”

He said the departing schools will have to pay $5 million to his league and wait until 2012 to move.

Benson said the arrangement was for BYU to still play four to six WAC teams per season in football and schedule the remaining openings on its own, taking advantage of the exposure on the school’s BYU-TV network.

"In a 12-hour period, the WAC went from having a secure and prosperous future to once again not knowing what the future will hold," he said.

Hawaii, meanwhile, is still weighing options, including staying in the WAC, trying to get into a different conference and going independent, at least in football, Donovan said. "The other sports could be problematic (as an independent)," he said.

Fresno State and Nevada received and accepted invitations less than a week after WAC members formed a buyout pact intended to keep the league intact.

"If we had solidarity and BYU made the move, some other Mountain West schools might have joined the WAC," Donovan said. "It wasn’t expected that anybody would break ranks."

Although Nevada did not actually sign the buyout agreement and loyalty pledge, Benson said WAC lawyers believe the Wolf Pack will still be subject to the terms of the deal and the conference will seek the money, due 60 days from Wednesday.


With the recent departure of Fresno State and Nevada, coupled with an earlier exit by Boise State, the depleted Western Athletic Conference and senior member Hawaii face an uncertain future.

Hawaii is still weighing options, which includes staying in the WAC, trying to get into a different conference and going independent, at least in football.

Give your opinion on the WAC shakeup.

"I recommended (the buyout) to the board. I wish at this time I had made it $20 million," Benson said.

And because Fresno State and Nevada didn’t declare they were leaving before July 1, Benson said both are obligated to the WAC through the 2011-12 academic year.

"Only if the WAC believes that it would be in the WAC’s best interest that there would be an early out," Benson said.

Meanwhile, West Coast Conference commissioner Jamie Zaninovich said in an e-mail he had contacted BYU to see if the school would be interested in joining his conference but had not heard back.

The remaining WAC members are Hawaii, Utah State, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State and Idaho. Benson said the league will look at other schools, including members of the Football Championship Subdivision, that might be interested in moving up a division.

Utah State felt the agreement already in place within the WAC was binding, athletic director Scott Barnes said in an open letter released yesterday. "We were simply committed to uphold our agreement with fellow WAC members," Barnes wrote.

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said Wednesday night that adding Fresno State and Nevada was not designed to thwart BYU’s departure by weakening the WAC.

Benson had a very different take.

"My opinion, it was very clear to me and to the WAC membership that the Fresno and Nevada invitation was direct result of BYU’s interest of going independent and joining the WAC," he said.

Benson said the WAC will have to re-negotiate its TV deal with ESPN.

Nevada athletic director Cary Groth said Wednesday night that the move made sense for the Wolf Pack partly because the school expects to cut travel expenses now that Hawaii and Louisiana Tech will no longer be on upcoming schedules.

"The exposure of the Mountain West also has been a little stronger than the WAC," Groth told the Associated Press.

Donovan said he "always knew it was a possibility" that Fresno State and Nevada might leave the WAC for the Mountain West.

"It was good business on behalf of the Mountain West to make a counteroffer to one, two or three WAC schools," he said. "The reality is we need to be prepared for anything," Donovan said.


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