Catching up with Chris Burgess

Published: Friday, April 1 2011 1:18 p.m. MDT

Remember Chris Burgess?

If you've followed local college basketball over the past 15 years or so, you do.

Burgess, an LDS center from southern California, was the No. 1 high school basketball recruit back in 1996. Then-BYU coach Roger Reid pursued Burgess tirelessly but, ultimately, Burgess picked Duke. When Burgess called Reid to inform him of his decision, Reid was devastated and replied that Burgess was letting down 9 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That comment received widespread national attention.

Weeks later, Reid was fired from his position, in the middle of the season, and the Cougars finished with a 1-25 record. Burgess played for a couple of seasons at Duke before finishing his career at Utah. In a wide-ranging interview, Jeff Pearlman catches up with Burgess to discuss that infamous exchange with Reid; his career at Utah; the recent, headline-grabbing suspension of Brandon Davies at BYU; and Burgess' professional career, among other topics.

An excerpt of what Burgess said about Reid: "Coach Reid was my last coach I had to let down and he wasn’t like the other coaches. However, during my recruiting process with him, I’d gotten to know him so well from home visits and weekly phone conversations. I grew to really admire him, so when he said that “Your father wants you to be here, your mother [wants you to be here] and you’re letting them down and also the other 9 million members of the LDS Church down.” I was so distraught and didn’t know what to think. I remember rationalizing, thinking all of them can’t be all BYU fans so I couldn’t possibly be letting down 9 million. I was a 17-year-old kid and was really upset because I believed this coach when he said that."

An excerpt of what Burgess had to say about the Davies situation: "I respect the BYU fans who all gave him a standing ovation when he entered the Marriott Center after his suspension, to me that says a lot. I also respect the basketball program for allowing him to still be a part of the team by practicing and going on road trips, especially to the NCAA Tourney. I just wish there could have been a way to privately discipline him and work with him but still find a way to allow him to play."

Now let's turn to football. BYU is playing at Texas on Sept. 10 in Austin. A Dallas Morning News blog reports that the tickets for Longhorn home games will increase by an average of $8. Specifically, individual ticket prices for the game against Rice are $70, $85 for BYU and Oklahoma State, $75 for Kansas and Kansas State and $95 for Texas Tech.

Meanwhile, the Charleston Daily Mail reports that West Virginia will be throwing the ball more this season. The reason for that can be traced back to BYU's traditionally prolific offense. The story quotes Mountaineer receivers coach Shannon Dawson saying that Hal Mumme, the former coach at Kentucky, studied the Cougar offense extensively over the years.

"What intrigued Coach Mumme was it was obvious BYU didn't have the talent of the people they were playing against, but they were beating them," Dawson said. "He was like, 'How are these guys competing?' The bottom line is the pass levels the playing field. Spreading people out minimizes their ability to out-physical you."

Email: jeffc@desnews.com

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