About Utah: Ex-BYU a.d. sees different world

Published: Friday, Aug. 27 2010 12:15 a.m. MDT

Glen Tuckett would be the first to tell you he's not exactly what you'd call cutting edge these days.

"I'm a yellow pad guy," he says. "I don't really know the Internet."

It's been 17 years since Tuckett was BYU's athletic director, a position he held for 17 years, and 14 years since he was athletic director at the University of Alabama before retiring as a full-time administrator.

The college athletic landscape has changed dramatically since then, especially in football. The BCS; coaches making $4 million a year; bowl games in Boise and Detroit — all new since Tuckett's days.

He recently returned from the annual meetings of the American Baseball Coaches Association, where he's been chairman of the board for the past six years, with a tidbit of information that says volumes about the mushrooming nature of college sports.

"I heard a statistic there that the average salary of baseball coaches in the (Southeastern Conference) is $600,000," he says. "That's the average!"

Back when he was coaching baseball, that would have paid the salary for the entire athletic department.

"Proliferation" is the word Tuckett uses to describe what's been happening to college athletics the past decade and a half.

"We used to get by more bare bones without all the frills," he says. "And then somebody started frilling, and everybody else had to frill right along with them.

"It's not the same game; I'm the first guy to admit that," he continues. "But it isn't as foreign to the same game as some want to make it sound. I think everyone's caught up in spending and trying to keep up with the Joneses. That is the formula for fiscal failure."

Tuckett brings all this up in the context of what his old school is up to these days.

For the past two weeks, BYU has been the subject of more tweets than Brett Favre as the school considers leaving the Mountain West Conference in favor of some sort of hybrid status that would make the football team an independent.

The University of Utah's pending move to the Pac-10 Conference and a broadcasting revenue shortfall are reportedly the factors behind the possible changes.

The thought of BYU going independent during his tenure, says Tuckett, was never a serious consideration.

That's because, back then, BYU's local TV and radio broadcasting revenue was independent — so the football team didn't have to be.

"We had our own long-standing local TV package with KSL," says Tuckett. "We were fortunate to always finish in the black — and comfortably in the black. We never had any clamoring to do anything different. We had periodic conversations with the Pac-10 and the Big Eight, but it was just talk."

So what would he do if he were still steering the athletic ship at BYU?

He's not saying — out of respect for the people who are now steering the ship and out of consideration that he is not privy to all the details.

But he does see just three alternatives.

"One would be the status quo, and evidently that's not acceptable," he says.

The second would be to put together a compelling presentation as a petition to the MWC to allow the Cougars to stay in the league but with concessions for their own TV package in football and basketball.

"They can ask, 'Let us be creative on our own with television. We'll participate in the bowl structure and everything else,' " says Tuckett. "If they could get KBYU and KSL working together as they have in the past, it would be a real asset. In addition, they could work with ESPN for meaningful broadcasts both in football and basketball."

With BYU part of a refigured MWC that includes Fresno State and Nevada, and possibly Utah State, Tuckett sees an even stronger league.

"Air Force, BYU, Boise State, TCU, Fresno State and Nevada, those are all strong football programs," he says. "With the remaining five, plus perhaps Utah State, that would make a great 12-team league. I'm almost positive that within a couple of years, if the football programs remain what they are, the MWC would become an automatic BCS qualifier."

The third option would be full independent status for BYU football.

"The independent thing has some charm, but people don't understand how hard it is to schedule," Tuckett says. "Can you imagine how difficult it would be to create an attractive schedule after the first two or three weeks of the season? And then there's the real problem of scheduling for all the other sports beyond football."

He doesn't know what his former employer will do, although he expresses complete confidence it'll get it done and it will be handled properly. He's not even sure what he would recommend if he were still an employee helping make the decision.

What he does know is the old yellow pad days, they weren't bad.

Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com.

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