Dick Harmon: Jake Heaps, Cougars couldn't make it work

Published: Monday, Dec. 5 2011 2:42 p.m. MST

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Heaps (9) as Brigham Young University plays New Mexico State University in football Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, in Provo, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

PROVO — Two scenes tell the tale of the Jake Heaps saga in Provo.

There might be many other key anecdotes in the short career of the nation's No. 1 quarterback recruit of 2010, but the following will suffice in wake of his announcement Monday that he'll transfer from BYU effective Dec. 17.

In June 2009, Heaps joined receiver Ross Apo and linebacker Zack Stout at Iggy's in Salt Lake City and announced their commitment to sign with BYU and their desire to win a national championship. It was staged, choreographed and arranged by a private public relations person.

Switch to the night of Sept. 30, 2011, in LaVell Edwards Stadium. Jake's wife Brooke watched her husband get benched as BYU trailed late against Utah State. As his replacement Riley Nelson sparked a Cougar comeback, several rows behind her, members of Nelson's family (not his mom and dad) were observed yelling down at Brooke, "Why aren't you cheering now?"

In tears, Brooke witnessed the victory but never attended another BYU game.

Folks will argue the bits and pieces of Heaps' departure for years to come. They'll debate why and question whether he was justified in leaving. They'll examine and scrutinize BYU's coaches, the culture on the team. Many will blame BYU's squad and coaches, others will say Heaps brought it on himself in his approach or eagerness to be No. 1.

Fact is, it doesn't matter. The divorce is final and it is over. Both are headed in different directions. In the end, collateral damage won out and Heaps believes it best to move elsewhere and start over; BYU likes its more mobile QB pipeline.

Weeks before Monday's announcement, Heaps had a third-party examine interest in his talents elsewhere. Taylor Barton, his QB guru since he was 9 years old, had been contacting potential suitors. It was Barton who advised Heaps to go to BYU.

It was Barton who is advising Heaps today and it was Barton who gave Mason Kelly of the Seattle Times the scoop on the Heaps transfer on Monday. Kelly covered Heaps in high school.

It is through Barton that Heaps is now being advised by a group of professionals who have counseled him not to comment — except through a released statement to ESPN — publicly. Advisors told Heaps he should avoid personal interviews with print and radio for at least a week.

As first reported in the Deseret News on Sunday, if Heaps did transfer, the machinery would kick into motion within 24 hours of the team plane touching down from the Hawaii game.

For at least a month, Heaps has told some team members it didn't look like he'd be at the bowl game Dec. 30 in Dallas. For more than a month — since the 54-10 loss to Utah — he and his quarterback coach Brandon Doman have had a falling out.

Monday's move came as no surprise.

Heaps will be required to complete his winter semester work to be eligible at his new school. The NCAA requires he redshirt next season. Schools who have shown the most interest are USC of the Pac-12 and South Carolina of the SEC. If he stays in the West, California and Washington could become players. He will decide in the next two weeks.

Utah has never been an option.

"Jake has decided to leave the program in pursuit of a fresh start for he and his young family," Mendenhall said. "Jake is a great young man with tremendous potential and someone I deeply care about. I am sorry to see him leave this wonderful institution yet anxious to follow his future development and success."

For his BYU career, Heaps completed 363-of-635 passes for 3,768 yards, 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

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