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BYU football: ESPN executive discusses Cougars' future

ESPN officials haven't said much publicly since news surfaced last week that BYU has been laying the groundwork to go independent in football.

According to reports, the all-sports network was working to be a partner with the Cougars in televising, and helping schedule, football and basketball games.

ESPN spokesman Michael Humes told the Deseret News last week that "BYU initiated a discussion with ESPN. The conversation will remain private."

In today's Birmingham News, though, Jon Solomon conducted a Q&A with ESPN senior vice president of college sports programming Burke Magnus. Among other topics, Solomon asked Magnus some specific questions about BYU and its viability as a football independent.

Here is an excerpt of that Q&A:

Question: How attractive is BYU to television as an independent? (Note: The interview with Magnus occurred before a report by the The Denver Post that BYU will likely remain in the Mountain West.)

Answer: "It's hard to say. You have to consider who they would be playing. BYU, to me, is a great brand and has a solid history of excellent performance on the fields and on the courts. I think they would have had a good time of it as an independent in terms of putting their best foot forward and build a BYU brand independently. Ultimately, their departure was a lot of rumors and until they actually make the leap, it's difficult to say."

Question: How difficult would it be for ESPN to help set up enough home-and-home football games for BYU as an independent?

Answer: "I think they could have slipped right into our mechanism to fill schedules and word would have spread pretty quickly that they had availability. They have a history of having pretty good teams coming to play in Provo. Texas just did a home-and-home with them. They had Notre Dame there over the years. I presume they'll continue to play Utah. I think it would have been an interesting proposition to have sort of the mountain version of Notre Dame."

Question: Is it done now for BYU to be an independent since the Mountain West countered by adding Nevada and Fresno State from the WAC?

Answer: "I'm not sure. I think they obviously have to evaluate a much different landscape than where they were a week ago."

Question: There are reports that ESPN and BYU talked about a deal for four BYU home game on ESPN for up to $4 million. Is that accurate?

Answer: "I can only say our company statement. We had conversations with them."

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com