By Chadd Cripe
© 2010 Idaho Statesman
Boise State president Bob Kustra said Thursday that he learned of BYU’s interest in becoming a football independent Tuesday morning during a Mountain West conference call.
“I think the entire Mountain West membership was caught off-guard by the first teleconference,” Kustra said. “… (BYU president Cecil Samuelson) explained his frustrations over the (TV) access issue and asked for some redress of grievances.”
BYU’s desire to leave the Mountain West stems from unhappiness with the league’s TV contract with Comcast and CBS, Kustra said.
BYU, of course, helped create the unique deal when the Mountain West decided to split with ESPN. Mountain West games air on Versus, CBS College Sports and The Mtn. The Mtn. is co-owned by CBS and Comcast.
“It all has to do with the media contract,” Kustra said. “They’d like to have more visibility.”
The Mountain West presidents spoke again Wednesday to discuss what the TV partners said could be done to accommodate BYU, Kustra said.
Samuelson didn’t participate in the decision to invite Fresno State and Nevada, Kustra said.
“Dr. Samuelson still seemed to be concerned about the commitment that he was getting from the media companies and still was feeling that he wanted to explore other options,” Kustra said, “so he left the conference call and at that point there was discussion of what other options were viable — that it appeared BYU was leaving the conference.”
BYU, which had plans to join the WAC in all other sports before Fresno State and Nevada bolted for the Mountain West on Wednesday night, still hasn’t decided its future. However, athletic director Tom Holmoe’s comments Thursday make it sound like the Cougars still would like to go independent in football.
"We have some incredible options available to us because of BYU broadcasting and the friends that we have across the country,” Holmoe said, according to the Deseret News. “We're going to look to make sure that we build on those things and take advantage of those things. We're trying to put ourselves in position to be the best we can, which is exposure across the country, letting our kids shine in the bright lights."
If BYU follows Utah out the Mountain West door, that would be two high-profile departures from the league since Boise State accepted an invite in June.
That’s why Kustra was pleased to invite Fresno State and Nevada — two of the Broncos’ rivals in the WAC. He said those schools were identified by the conference and he wasn’t involved in their selection or recruitment.
Kustra, as usual when discussing conference, emphasized the benefits of the Mountain West’s tight geographic footprint.
“I’d like BYU to stay, but am I comfortable if they leave? Will it still be a good conference for Boise State? Yes,” said Kustra, who was allowed to vote on the invitations even though Boise State doesn’t join the league until July 2011. “… The addition of Nevada and Fresno State really makes it a very comfortable conference for us.
“I think the presidents of the Mountain West wanted to make sure they had stability, make sure they had strength.”
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said Wednesday the league would help Fresno State and Nevada financially during their transition to the Mountain West. The schools owe the WAC $5 million each, WAC commissioner Karl Benson said, and usually would pay an entrance fee of $1 million or more to join the Mountain West.
Boise State expects to receive the same assistance — likely a cut in the entry fee — as the other two.
“I have been assured we will be treated equally,” Kustra said.
Here are the highlights from Benson’s media teleconference Thursday.