Utah State turned down an invitation to join the Mountain West Conference, believing in the pact all eight WAC schools made last week to stay together. As we now know, Fresno State and Nevada broke that pact. Now, Utah State is stuck in a destabilized conference with an uncertain future.
In a letter posted on the school's website Thursday night, athletic director Scott Barnes wrote that Utah State had played a big role in potentially bringing BYU into the league as a member in all sports but football.
"As of Tuesday, BYU was on the verge of joining the WAC in all sports but football.
"As part of the WAC's conversations with BYU, the current eight conference members (excluding departing Boise State) agreed to remain together as a conference for at least five years. This stability was important to BYU, to other current members, and would have been critical as other expansion options were explored. WAC members signed a letter of commitment that included a $5M membership buyout. When the possibility of BYU leaving became known, MWC leadership contacted three WAC members inquiring about their interest in joining the MWC. Utah State was the first of these three contacts.
"At the point in time when Utah State was contacted by the MWC we had a binding agreement with the WAC and were well positioned with nine members, which included BYU. We were simply committed to uphold our agreement with fellow WAC members. We respectfully declined MWC interest and believed all WAC members would remain committed to our agreement."
He ends his note with this: "I do not take lightly the negative effect that recent changes in the composition of the WAC will have on us, but these are not insurmountable. We have persevered through many changes in the athletic landscape and are prepared and better equipped to do so again. We will continue to focus on building programs that win championships, graduate talented student-athletes, as well as excite and unify Aggies everywhere."
Utah State may have done the honorable thing, but you have to wonder whether it regrets that decision now.