Later this week, Dave Checketts will meet with Brigham Young University President Rex E. Lee and Paul Thompson, vice president for development and university relations, to discuss the future of BYU's athletic program.
Lee commissioned Checketts, the former Utah Jazz general manager who now operates the sports consulting firm Sports Capital, to study the athletic programs at some of the most prestigious schools in the country - North Carolina, Notre Dame, Penn State, Duke, Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA, etc.The mission basically was to find out what makes them so successful and then apply that to BYU. Or, as Thompson told the Deseret News recently, "to look at ways to increase revenues for the athletic program."
Economics, of course, is changing the face of college athletics. What were once rumors and speculation are becoming fact. It's a fact that Notre Dame made its own television deal with NBC. It's a fact that Penn State gave up its independent status in football and switched from the Atlantic 10 in all other sports to join the Big Ten. And it's fact that the Southeastern Conference has made official inquiries to Arkansas, Florida State and Miami to see if they would be interested in joining the SEC, thereby making it a mega or super conference.
It's also fact the Pac-10 will be discussing expansion at its meetings later this month and that the Western Athletic Conference has formed a three-member panel (which includes Lee) to address the expansion issue.
These are changing and formative times, and, as both Lee and Thompson said in interviews with the Deseret News, as developments take place, "We've got to be alert."
Which is why Checketts' report and subsequent recommendations would seem so important.
So, Dave, what are you going to recommend?
"I really can't discuss at this point what recommendations I'm going to make."
OK, what about the possibility of BYU leaving the WAC? Will that be included in your presentation?
"That's too sensitive an issue to discuss."
Well, give me something, will you?
"Look, they're very bright people down there. They know what's happening around them. I have a lot of respect for Rex Lee. If I didn't, I wouldn't have agreed to do the study."
One more try. Dave, in light of what's been going on around the country regarding the talk and actions of schools banding together to form super conferences, will you be discussing those developments in relation to BYU?
"Again, it's not my place to discuss those things. I'll present my data to BYU, and then they'll make their decisions.
"If you want to speculate, that's up to you."
I want to speculate.
By your silence on the BYU/WAC relationship, you've in a sense spoken plenty. The thick volume of stories we have in our files on you regarding your successful business-sports career is replete with terms like innovative and creative. You're the guy who in just a few years turned the Jazz from a financial disaster into a profitable and healthy enterprise. When you left the team on June 2, 1989, the front-page story in the Deseret News referred to you as "The Jazz's business boy wonder."
With that in mind, my instincts tell me that what you'll recommend is this: That BYU leave the WAC.
You do your homework, and so you'll approach it from all angles - athletic, economic, academic and religious. You'll urge the adminstration to think of 10 years from now, not next year. Where will the WAC be athletically then? Economically?
You'll say that athletically, economically, academically and religiously, it makes sense to consider having serious dialogue with the Pac-10, and soon. You enjoy challenges. You'll encourage BYU to take the challenge of leaving the big-fish-in-a-little-WAC-pond comfort zone for the perhaps frightening but ultimately more rewarding Pac-10.
Yes, you'll likely say, the 11-1 and 10-2 football seasons may be by the boards for awhile, but what will it do for the program to have USC and UCLA coming to Provo as opposed to Colorado State and UTEP? And having the possibility of competing in the Rose Bowl? Now that Penn State's in the Big Ten, would a BYU-Penn State rematch in Pasadena be out of the question?
Economically, you'll show that it doesn't take a business major to determine that a $5.5 million dollar payout from the Rose Bowl divided among conference members goes a lot further than the $1 million payout from the Sea World Holiday Bowl. And there are other economic incentives associated with the Pac-10, such as regular-season TV games.
Academically, you'll point to the prestige and challenge of being involved with a school like Stanford, long known for its academic reputation. You may even note that the chancellor for the University of California system is one David P. Gardner, former president at the University of Utah.
Religiously, you'll point out that the Pac-10 offers a lot of pluses. There's a stronghold of Latter-day Saints in Arizona, ideal for those Thursday-Saturday basketball swings to Arizona and Arizona State as well as for football games there. And the West Coast is another area with strong LDS representation.
Because of the relative scarcity of LDS population in Big Eight-Southwest Conference territory, it's doubtful you'll urge BYU to push very hard in the direction of those two conferences should they become an option. BYU booster clubs in Southern California? They exist. But on the plains of Kansas?
One thing I am sure of is that your presentation will be bold. That's been your history. You don't sit down with people like Joe Paterno, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski - as you did - and discuss their programs so that you can return with pablum.
I sense there'll be more meat than pablum to your recommendations.