WAC, BYU had 2011 schedule at ready

BYU was so close to joining the Western Athletic Conference as an affiliate member and going independent in football earlier this week that the league had done a mock 2011 football schedule with the Cougars that was ready to be finalized before Fresno State and Nevada stunned the rest of the league and joined the Mountain West Conference on Wednesday.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson said Friday that the league had a schedule of games for BYU against WAC members to help fill the Cougars' 2011 season.

They were:
• BYU at Fresno State;
• BYU at Hawaii;
• Utah State at BYU;
• Nevada at BYU;
• San Jose State at BYU;
• New Mexico State at BYU.

Of those WAC teams, the Cougars are slated to play only in-state, nonconference rival Utah State in 2011.

The schedule agreement would have been akin to Notre Dame's agreement with the Big East to play some of its teams in football as the rest of its sports compete as league members.

BYU also is scheduled to play at Oregon State and at Texas in 2011.

In addition, BYU reportedly completed a home-and-home agreement with Texas recently for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. BYU already had scheduled future games against new Mountain West member Boise State and Hawaii in 2012 and 2013.

Benson said he spoke with BYU officials late Thursday after his teleconference, but still has no idea if the Cougars will leave the Mountain West to be a football independent, now that Fresno State and Nevada intend on leaving the WAC.

BYU has until Sept. 1 to let the MWC know whether it will play in the 2011 season.

Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes wrote a letter to Aggies' fans Thursday explaining that the Aggies were the first of the three WAC schools to be invited by the MWC, but that Utah State turned down the offer because it had signed the $5 million buyout agreement. Nevada and Fresno State chose not to honor the agreement, which was consummated just four days earlier.

West Coast Conference commissioner Jamie Zaninovich is pursuing BYU as a full member as well, save football, but said again Friday he hasn't heard from the Cougars' administration after reaching out this week.

While the WAC and Mountain West wait to see what BYU decides in the next week, both conferences also will deal with a legal battle on the departure of Fresno State and Nevada.

Benson reiterated Friday that he won't release the two schools earlier than for the 2012-13 season because they missed the July 1 deadline to leave by the start of the 2011 season. Benson said Fresno State president John Welty signed the $5 million buyout agreement last week, while Nevada president Milt Glick didn't, but gave a verbal "yes."

WAC legal counsel is pursuing payment to the league within the next 60 days. Boise State, which beat the July 1 deadline, is entering its last season in the WAC before leaving for the MWC.

"Unless there is a good reason for the WAC to let them out early, we're not interested,'' Benson said. "We've had it in the past two years of lame-duck status.''

Former WAC members that have departed after two seasons include TCU, which left for Conference USA before bolting to the Mountain West; and SMU, Tulsa and Rice, all of which also left for the C-USA.

"We are assuming we are a nine-team league in 2010 and then an eight-team league in 2011,'' Benson said of those football seasons. "There's no sense of urgency to make any decisions on future membership. The most important thing is to manage the legal separation of Fresno State and Nevada.''

Benson added that if Fresno State and Nevada were to leave before the 2011 season, then the remaining six schools would be short two football games and doing that on short notice "would be almost impossible."

Benson said the league has time to decide what it will do and added that his phone has been ringing off the hook from members to join the remaining six schools for 2012 -- Hawaii, Utah State, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State, Idaho and New Mexico State.

The most interested schools are Texas-San Antonio and Texas State. Benson said the league has made multiple attempts to invite the Sun Belt's North Texas, to no avail.

Other schools that have been in contact, such as Montana, Montana State, Sacramento State, Cal Poly and UC Davis, would have to decide if they want to bump up their programs into the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Andy Katz is a senior college basketball writer for ESPN.com.