PROVO Eight University of Utah baseball players are discovering that defacing the massive block Y above Provo is an expensive prank.
More than 13 months after police obtained photos that showed the players allegedly painting red U's on the white Y, attorneys for the players have drafted a plea arrangement with prosecutors, the attorneys told a 4th District judge on Wednesday.
There's just one catch: Brigham Young University is seeking restitution in the amount of $6,267.20.
"We need to talk to our clients and see if we can twist somebody's arm at BYU to see if they really want that much money," attorney Loni DeLand told 4th District Judge Lynn Davis.
Davis set a hearing for Aug. 10, but BYU grounds director Roy Peterman said the amount is simply what it costs to repaint the entire Y, which is 380 feet tall.
"We went out and (painted over the red U's), and there were still shadows," Peterman said. "You could tell it wasn't the uniform color of the whole Y. We had to repaint the whole Y to restore it to the condition it was in prior to their vandalism."
The first attempt cost about $1,300, attorneys for the players said. They hoped the final bill could be reduced closer to that figure.
Four or five red U's were found on the Y early on the morning of May 1, 2004. The Utes had played BYU the day before, and another game between the rival schools was scheduled that day. BYU grounds crew and paint shop employees repainted the Y by 11:30 a.m., but it took a total of 106 man-hours of labor to complete the job.
It's the cost of the paint, not the labor, however, that makes up the majority of the bill. For more than half a century, students annually applied whitewash to the Y. That changed in 1978, when gunnite was applied. Now, a special paint is needed to coat the gunnite each year.
"The paint we have to use to get it to stick on the gunnite is extremely expensive," Peterman said.
The BYU crews used 159 gallons of Tamms coat, which cost $22 per gallon. Total bill? About $3,500. They also used lacquer thinner and paint thinner.
Peterman said there is no way to reduce BYU's claim for restitution.
"That's what it cost just for the material and labor," he said. "The attraction of the Y is having it look uniform and not colored in any way. We have to restore it to its original prime condition. Sometimes we're able to do it without repainting the entire Y, sometimes we aren't. The red colors, particularly, are extremely difficult to blend in."
The culprits were a mystery until May 10, when an employee at a Fred Meyer store in the Salt Lake City area called police and reported that the photo department had processed film that showed people painting the Y.
Then-U. baseball coach Tim Esmay identified the players from the pictures. One quit the team, and Esmay suspended the others for one game. Prosecutors charged all eight with criminal mischief, a second-degree felony punishable by one-to-15 years in prison. The plea arrangement would reduce the charge to a misdemeanor, DeLand said.
The players did not attend the hearing. They are Eric Schaler, 25; Ryan Robert Breska, 24; Jay Brossman, 20; Ryan Florence, 22; Tyler Kmetko, 20; Tyson Olson, 22; Jason Price, 20; and Jacob Waldram, 21.Comment on this story
Only four of the players returned and played for the team this year. Brossman led the Utes in hitting this spring with a .377 batting average and homered and doubled in Utah's lone win over BYU, an 11-10 victory on April 22. The Cougars had won 17 of the previous 18 games between the schools.
Waldram, Kmetko and Price also played this season as Utah finished 19-36.
The case has languished since July 30, when attorneys on both sides announced they were working on a plea deal.
However long it takes to resolve the case, it should be a lesson to everyone, Peterman said."Don't do it. It's not worth it."