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Monson: BYU's independence quest reads like a spy novel
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

OK, the following stuff isn't interesting at all, not one bit — unless you like political thrillers, college sports style, with powerful men flinging e-mails back and forth, angling behind the scenes to take BYU sports away from the Mountain West and into the WAC, all while that school's football program attempted to find its independence with the help of ESPN.

Oh, baby, baby, now.

You know the Titanic sank at the end, but what was said on the bridge as she slipped under the waves?

We have all the heretofore shrouded communiques by the captains, trying to seal the deal, an endeavor that even had a secret code name — "The Project" — and that reflect duplicity on the part of the conference commissioner trying to kill it.

They reveal wheeling and dealing, revenge, backstabbing, utter betrayal, shrewdly enough, by two of the architects of the whole concoction, and, at the end, heartbreak.

In other words, it was like a typical day at the Mountain West's basketball tournament in Vegas.

There's everything in this saga, except for heavy organ music. Nobody got Sally's neighbors' ex-husband's daughter's girlfriend pregnant, but ... they tried real hard.

Instead, certain players helped facilitate an attempt to lift BYU sports away from the MWC, at BYU's behest, and place them in the WAC, all while the Cougars' football team was set free, adding a slate of WAC teams to its schedule, alongside new television horizons.

Those players included Utah State president Stan Albrecht, who filled the role of bumbling band leader, WAC commissioner Karl Benson, the sorry victim, and Fresno State president John Welty and Nevada president Milton Glick, as soulless betrayers.

The Tribune gained access on Thursday to a comprehensive batch of e-mails fired off among some of those players over the span of a week that ranged from anticipation and jubilation that the deal would get done to basic details about how it would get done to rejection and dejection when it appeared the thing was doomed.

Here's a small sampling:

Friday, Aug. 13, from Benson to Welty:

"... I talked to BYU reps several times over the weekend and they are getting close to finalizing the deal with ESPN. While they were pretty far apart on the original financial details (surprise, surprise) it appears BYU is prepared to go forward despite not getting the exact number they were hoping for. ... It appears more and more Mt. West members are now aware of how close BYU is to finalizing the deal and it wouldn't surprise me if there isn't some type of offer that is made to persuade BYU to remain in the Mt. West. However, BYU continues to tell me that they are way too far down the road and are prepared to go forward regardless of what the offer may include ..."

Monday, Aug. 16, from Benson to a group of WAC officials:

"... Looks like Craig Thompson/Mt. West has realized that the BYU issue is real and is now mounting an effort to convince/persuade BYU to stay in the Mt. West. On the other hand, BYU president ... has reiterated his position that BYU is going forward regardless of [whatever] Mt. West may offer."

Monday, Aug. 16, from Benson to group:

"I talked with Milt [Nevada president Milton Glick] over the weekend and updated him on the Board call from Friday. He has now 'signed off' and thus has joined the rest of the Board in unanimously approving the Resolution to enter into an agreement with BYU."

Tuesday, Aug. 17, from Albrecht to USU chief of staff Sydney Peterson:

"Syd, all signatures are in place! I don't think John or Milt has $5 million to buy their way out. [Boise State president Bob Kustra's] world is crumbling and he is desperate, but can you imagine this afternoon's conversation if we didn't have the binding areement in place?"

Thursday, Aug. 19, from Benson to group:

"... Milt stated in his comments to the media yesterday that he did not sign the Resolution calling for the binding agreement. And this morning it has been established that he in fact did not. As I had Kathy record the agreements that arrived over the weekend and on Monday she inadvertently 'checked off' Nevada. However, inasmuch as Milt verbally agreed to the binding agreement with me on Saturday [WAC legal counsel] Jerry [Deavitt] believes the penalty is enforceable ..."

Wednesday, Aug. 18, from Benson to group:

"... [We] watched the 'Project' disintegrate due to the unethical and selfish actions of two college presidents. As I am sure you know by now Fresno State and Nevada have accepted invitations to join the Mt. West Conference. I know you all have to be devastated by what has occurred. In a 12-hour period, the WAC went from having secured a prosperous future to now not knowing what the future will be."

Wednesday, Aug. 18, from USU vice president Michael Kennedy to Albrecht:

"I'm watching the Mtn. [news conference] and feeling sick to my stomach. Any silver lining?"

Wednesday, Aug. 18, from Albrecht to Kennedy:

"Unfortunately, no. [Craig] Thompson hasn't returned my call. Not a good sign."

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at gmonson@sltrib.com.

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