BYU originally said no to WAC's plan
A report in today's Honolulu Star-Advertiser sheds more light on "The Project," the Western Athletic Conference's stealth plan to add BYU's non-football sports and ease BYU's path to independence in football. The Tribune published articles on Friday and Saturday about the plan, after obtaining e-mails exchanged between WAC commissioner Karl Benson, Utah State president Stan Albrecht, Fresno State president John Welty and Nevada president Milt Glick via an open records request through Utah State. The Star-Advertiser also obtained some e-mails and documents and uncovered several more interesting twists and turns. For instance: * When the WAC's Benson originally contacted BYU about the plan having received authorization from the WAC's Board of Directors to proceed with the plan the Cougars were initially not interested in discussing a return to the WAC (the conference they left in 1999 to form the MWC). * Benson and Albrecht waited for the shock of Utah bolting for the Pac-10 to wear off at BYU, then approached the Cougars a second time and learned that "the school was already exploring the possibility of going independent in football and looking for somewhere to park its other 18 teams." This time, BYU listened and apparently liked what it heard. * The WAC not only discussed getting BYU, it also talked about luring San Diego State, UNLV and UTEP to form a 12-team league in football. * A memo obtained by the Star-Advertiser showed that the WAC's TV rights fees could increase by as much as 300 percent from ESPN if the plan had worked. Each school in the WAC reportedly receives nearly $500,000 annually under the current contract. * There was at least some discussion about approaching Gonzaga and possibly one other non-football playing school to form a 14-team basketball league. * WAC insiders believe that officials at Conference USA tipped off MWC commissioner Craig Thompson that The Project was unfolding, tips that sent Thompson scurrying to Philadelphia to meet with television executives and that eventually led to the commissioner hastily inviting Nevada and Fresno State to the MWC to scuttle the plan.