PROVO — To say the least, it’s been a bizarre week leading up to the final BYU-Utah game before the rivalry takes a two-year hiatus.
On Thursday, a strange week turned even stranger.
That’s when the Deseret News obtained a copy of a photo from the University of Utah legal counsel — just days after a controversial, now-deleted YouTube video made by Ute players drew widespread attention — that appears to show Cougar linebacker Spencer Hadley, whom this week BYU suspended for five games for an honor code violation, partying with a group of people at an unverified location.
According to the person who sent the photo via email to a Utah official, the photo was taken at a club in Las Vegas. There is no time stamp on the photo.
Emails obtained by the Deseret News from the University of Utah show that the photo was sent from a Darren Lucy, who described himself as “a die hard Utah Utes fan” to Utah’s assistant athletics director of compliance on Monday afternoon.
The subject line of the original email states, “BYU LB partying in Vegas with Booster.”
Lucy alleged in the email that Hadley had committed honor code violations as well as NCAA violations. Minutes later, that email was forwarded to BYU’s director of compliance, Chad Gwilliam.
Attempts by the Deseret News to locate and contact Lucy were unsuccessful, and an email sent by the Deseret News to the email address Lucy used to send the picture to the University of Utah was not replied to as of press time.
BYU spokesman Duff Tittle said that “the university has had no communication with the NCAA” pertaining to Hadley's suspension.
Why was the information forwarded to BYU?
“It’s a commonplace, professional courtesy to send it to the other school because what schools do when they hear of a violation, they can self-report,” said Utah spokeswoman Liz Abel. “When you self-report, the NCAA looks upon it more kindly than if they investigate you. It’s purely professional courtesy. She didn’t have to do it. We would like BYU to do the same for us if something ever came up like that.”
The Utah compliance officer also replied to Lucy’s email: "The NCAA can only investigate with evidence. If you have pictures, that would be helpful."
Lucy responded by saying he would “supply more pictures soon,” but the University of Utah did not receive any more photos from him.
Asked about the timing of the email — less than a week before Saturday’s rivalry game — Abel said, “It’s hard to speculate about someone’s motivations.”
Abel said the situation “wouldn’t have gone any further had we not been required to release it” in response to a Government Records Access Management Act request.
The University of Utah did not pass on the information, or the photo, to the NCAA, Abel said. She added that once BYU receives the information, it is up to its compliance office to determine whether to take any action.
Tuesday afternoon, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall announced that Hadley, a senior inside linebacker, had been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.
When contacted by the Deseret News Tuesday, BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins acknowledged that Hadley had violated the honor code and said he would be suspended for five games, starting with Saturday’s showdown against Utah.
As part of the school’s policy, Jenkins did not disclose any information about the nature of the violation.
Abel said she can’t remember a stranger week leading up to the rivalry game.
“It gets hard. It doesn’t seem like a normal rivalry to me,” she explained. “It kind of gets out of control at times Maybe this goes on at all schools and I just don’t know about it.”
It seems technology has played a role in the rivalry this week.
“That may have a lot to do with it,” Abel said. “Back in the day, someone sends you a typed letter with a Polaroid or something, and you get it three months after the season’s over.”
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company