Top 10 sports stories: Utes, Cougars and all that Jazz, etc.

Published: Saturday, Jan. 1 2011 9:00 p.m. MST

University officials talked secretly with WAC officials throughout the summer and came to a preliminary agreement that would allow the school to play all sports but football in the WAC. It was unofficially confirmed in news stories on Aug. 18 with a promised press conference to follow days later.

Now it was the MWC that looked finished.

But not 24 hours after that first report, Fresno State and Nevada announced they were leaving the WAC and following Boise State to the MWC. Utah State administrators admitted they had received an "inquiry of interest" from the MWC as well, but chose to stay in the WAC in honoring a commitment to the conference and a plan that would bring BYU into the league for every sport except football.

With the loss of Fresno, Nevada and Boise State, BYU chose not to affiliate its other sports with the WAC. Instead, a week after the expected announcement with the WAC, the Cougars agreed to play in the West Coast Conference in 12 other sports.

It was a devastating blow to the WAC, which also lost Hawaii earlier this month when officials there announced the school would also join the Mountain West Conference in football.

That was a move prompted by TCU's late-November announcement that it would be leaving the MWC to play in the Big East, which is an automatic qualifying conference.

Five months after landing Boise State, the Mountain West looks more like the current WAC, as three of the conference's top athletic powers leave for greener pastures.

The story's ending has yet to be written, as all of the schools now prepare for the reality of their new affiliations (or independence). Will it be the victory they (and their fans) envisioned? Or will they long for the summers when they were together in a conference they helped create?

No. 2 Free agent free for all

NBA free agency took on an unprecedented magnitude this summer thanks to LeBron James. While he announced he was leaving Cleveland for the Miami Heat in a much-criticized, and ironically much-watched, television special ("The Decision"), Utah Jazz fans were riveted by their own drama surrounding once beloved power forward Carlos Boozer.

His ability to earn a double-double virtually every night tormented fans who, while admiring his talent, also felt cheated by his constant string of debilitating injuries and occasional pining for greener pastures.

Eventually fans got some of what they wanted in the most eventful off-season for the Jazz in five years.

The Jazz worked out a sign-and-trade agreement with the Chicago Bulls for Boozer, which gave Jazz officials a valuable traded player exception. With that, they traded Kosta Koufos and two future first-round draft picks to Minnesota for power forward Al Jefferson. They also enticed Raja Bell to come back to Utah (despite an offer to the veteran swingman from the NBA champion L.A. Lakers).

The Jazz did, however, lose fan favorite Wesley Matthews to Portland, and Kyle Korver followed Boozer to Chicago by signing with the Bulls.

No. 3 Quarterback controversy morphs into coaching controversy

BYU's quarterback controversy led to a 1-4 start, including a loss to Utah State, the eventual firing of defensive coordinator Jaime Hill, the resignation of offensive coordinator Robert Anae and the release of BYU's offensive coaching staff.

Who would have thought that indecision about who should play one position would lead to the loss of two assistant coaches and a shake-up of the entire coaching staff?

It wasn't BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall that finally settled on freshman Jake Heaps over junior Riley Nelson. Instead, it was fate that chose the quarterback who would guide the Cougars back from one of their most disappointing starts.

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