College football • TV rights at issue as Cougs reject what conference says is its final offer.
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Provo • A well-placed source familiar with discussions between Brigham Young University and the Big East Conference confirmed reports late Tuesday night that the negotiations have ended, but stopped short of saying the Cougars will never become a football-only member of that far-flung league.
"I don't know if dead is the right word," the source said, "that implies that minds won't be changed. But yes, talks have definitely broken off."
The Associated Press reported Tuesday night that BYU will not be joining the conference.
The Tribune's source refused to completely rule it out, but said BYU officials will have to change their minds because the Big East extended its final offer within the past two days, and the Cougars rejected it Tuesday.
"It is at the point where [the Big East] has made its last offer, and [BYU] doesn't agree to those terms regarding entrance. That could change in a week, but it will have to come from [BYU]," the person said.
BYU officials declined a request for comment.
After BYU's football practice Tuesday night, coach Bronco Mendenhall said he had "nothing new to report" regarding the talks but said he will still "feel good" if the Cougars remain a football independent.
"I don't know who in college football right now knows what is going to happen, in terms of the BCS," he said. "… But I love the schedules we are putting together for the future, and I love the chance to partner with TV as much as we are. I think it is helping us. So I am very comfortable."
The Tribune's source said the deal-breaker was BYU's insistence that it could either keep its existing television contracts or receive an "ironclad assurance" that its situation regarding television exposure would be improved as a Big East member.
"That's something [the Big East] has never done for anyone," the person said.
The Tribune reported Monday that negotiations between BYU and the Big East had stalled because of BYU's wishes to retain its eight-year deal with ESPN that allows ESPN to broadcast all but one BYU game per season with an estimated payout of between $1 million and $2 million per game. The Cougars also wanted the rights to show replays of all their ESPN-televised games on their own TV network, BYUtv.
The Tribune's source confirmed Tuesday night that the Big East does not want to hand over those rights to BYU, primarily because it wants the option of using them when it negotiates a new television contract next year and believes that could affect the value of that contract.
The source said at one time it appeared BYU was close to joining as The Tribune reported on Nov. 15 until the issue of TV rights came up later in the negotiations.
The source confirmed reports that the Big East will now go after San Diego State as the western traveling partner sought by Boise State before the Broncos will agree to join. Houston, SMU and Central Florida are expected to announce within a week that they have joined the league as members in all sports.
Air Force also has an invitation, but western sources have told The Tribune that the academy wants to wait until the football season is over before it makes a decision.