UteZone, an affiliate of Scout.com, recovered e-mails in a GRAMA request that shed light on the Draper Republican's feelings toward the Utes almost a month before his subcommittee pushed forward a controversial audit that fans called retaliatory for canceling a men's basketball rivalry game with BYU, his alma mater.
Hughes sparred with Jan Krystkowiak, the wife of Runnin' Utes basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak in e-mails dated Jan. 9, 2016. After being told "mind your own business," Hughes shot back.
There it is. That's the arrogance that oozes from University of Utah's athletic program. As much as you have come to believe that you are an unaccountable entity unto yourself, you are not.
Hughes went on to cite how the Utah legislature "grapples with" funding public universities every year, and how athletic directors and coaches around the state bring communities together with sport. Wrote Hughes: "Your email exchange with me today highlights the stark difference in attitude and approach."
Krystkowiak's first e-mail took issue with a comment Hughes had made saying the last interruption of the series was caused by Adolf Hitler. Hughes apologized for the "tongue-and-cheek" comment and said that he wouldn't repeat it.
It was only weeks later that Hughes' subcommittee voted to advance for a full performance audit of Utah athletics, which was released in November with relatively minor findings that made recommedations for improving budget, hiring and facilities management practices. Salt Lake City Democrat Jim Dabakis recently quoted the audit pricetag over $200,000.
Hughes has spent a good chunk of the last year sparring with Utah fans, appearing in studio on ESPN 700 AM to defend the audit, saying it helped keep the university accountable to state taxpayers.
In another e-mail published by UteZone dated Feb. 21, 2016 (after the audit became public knowledge), Hughes explained his grounding for the audit thusly to an upset Utah fan, identified in the exchange as Buzz Hunt:
There have been decisions made by the U's athletic department over the years that have been said to have had a negative fiscal impact on other state schools. Whether that is true and there is reason for concern is unknown. The need for more information before making public policy decisions is part of our process. There shouldn't be any sacred cow within state government that is untouchable and unaccountable.
Added Hughes at the end of the message: "Please pass the word, I don't watch basketball and I'm not spending my time trying to schedule a basketball game."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed Hughes with introducing the motion. The motion for the audit was submitted by Senate President Wayne Niederhauser.