Dick Harmon: Shackles off as BYU, Utah say good-bye to MWC
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Click, rattle and thud. Chains, fetters, manacles, bonds and cuffs dropped.
Who won the first day of freedom from the Mountain West: BYU or Utah?
On Friday, both schools and their fans celebrated Exit Day from the Mountain West Conference. They tossed off the league's confining TV deal and accepted a new day and era. Official obligations by Utah and BYU to the MWC ended June 30.
However, Utah and BYU celebrated freedom in different ways.
Let's not kid ourselves. Friday was laced with rivalry overtones. It was a promotional exercise in hyping excitement over busting the shackles of the old league of which they were charter members, and who has the brighter vista ahead.
Utah hosted an official open house at the state Capitol, complete with a band, tents and speeches by officials. It was organized, well-backed, big-time public and drew Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, who took the podium with athletic director Chris Hill.
Utah's cry for celebration was a big Pac-12 party — entrance into the conference of champions.
BYU's Friday was a shout out for Independence Day, freedom to partner with ESPN and BYUtv for its coveted exposure. BYU primarily took its Friday campaign to the Internet with social media and with six press releases and swag.
It was a normally slow day in July, but both schools "worked" like it was August. Both sides tried to use July 1 to fire up fans, sell season tickets, create a "drum beat" for the new "exciting" future.
It is uncertain how many fans actually gave a hoot, stopping family reunions, camping, barbecues, golf outings and fishing.
BYU is ratcheting up its official "big splash" for independence on its Football Media Day slated July 12 when they'll wheel out Ty Detmer, LaVell Edwards and WCC officials.
But on Friday, BYU basically launched several Internet celebrations, including a promotion on Facebook with giveaways, a YouTube video of athletic director Tom Holmoe asking fans to "Rise Up." Partisans were encouraged to wear school gear, enter contests for prizes and call TV satellite-dish companies to put BYUtv on their high-definition platform.
Utah scored a coup with commissioner Scott, who made appearances on local sports radio and did interviews with media outlets. He went down all the Pac-12 talking points, discussed Sunday Pac-12 play in Salt Lake City, addressed expansion, TV money, the Rose Bowl and the BCS non-playoff party line.
In terms of attention, I give Utah the edge on execution and reach Friday. The coup with Scott took care of the morning talk shows, drew in the print media, and the big noon party knitted everything together in perfect fashion.
One thing BYU did is score big in the actual "Boots on the Ground" category with the launch of BYU Radio to more than 20 million subscribers on Sirius and XM satellite radio Channel 143. All of BYU's football and men's basketball games and most of its other sporting events will be carried live on this national radio platform.
It remains to be seen how this will impact BYU exposure, but no question, the availability of Cougar sports on satellite radio will broaden the reach. From the guy in his car cruising between Odessa and Midland, Texas, to the family in a beach house in Florida or 200 miles offshore in a yacht or oil rig, live game coverage is theirs in a seamless 3.7 million square-mile penetration throughout the U.S.
I asked the managing director of BYU broadcasting how big a deal this was. Derek Marquis offered:
"BYU Radio has long carried a simulcast of Greg Wrubell's live radio broadcasts and we are honored and excited to be able to now share Greg's passion for the game and the Cougars with fans nationwide. We are appreciative of the strong partnership with KSL and look forward to an exciting year ahead."
BYU Radio continues to be carried as one of the CD-audio channels on Dish Network and also streams live on the Internet at www.byuradio.org.
So, there we have it. Football in July. Sort of.
Friday became a day of freedom. July 1, 2011, a time of words and deeds, apparel, call-in campaigns. Talk radio eagerly took advantage of the NBA and NFL lockout vacuum.
Ordinarily these are the dog days of summer. July creeps upon us and we chip and dip out.
But for the second July in a row, this month is anything but boring.
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