Barnes: we would make the same decision 100 times over

Utah State University Director of Athletics Scott Barnes was a guest on KVNU’s Full Court Press program Thursday, August 26. Amid all the speculation about USU’s future in the Western Athletic Conference or its potential to move to the Mountain West Conference, we thought it would be best to get some answers from the source. Barnes addressed conference expansion, television expansion, BYU, the MWC, and a big scheduling announcement. If you missed the live, in-studio interview you can hear it in its entirety by

<a href=”http://podcast.cachevalleydaily.com/FCP-08-26-2010.mp3″>clicking here</a>

. Here are the highlights from that interview:

<strong>FCP:</strong>

Is there still a chance USU could end up in the Mountain West Conference?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

All options are open. There is still a possibility.

<strong>FCP:</strong>

What is the time frame to get something done?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

What’s really critical for us is to not panic. We have eight members in the conference, including Nevada and Fresno for two years. That gives us time. That time is critical because the landscape of college athletics is ever changing. What we witnessed last summer, I really believe is the tip of the iceberg for what could happen next year. We need to make sure we’re positioned for what might happen.

<strong>FCP:</strong>

Inkling that Fresno and Nevada would leave?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

We really didn’t know until the very last hour.

<strong>FCP:</strong>

Other MWC schools backing USU other than BYU?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

It’s premature to suggest where that all lies. But I can certainly tell you that yes, there is absolutely traction from beyond BYU and the Mountain West for supporting Utah State.

<strong>FCP:</strong>

Making sense of what transpired last week, what has been the reaction from boosters and coaches?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

I didn’t really realize how many mentors and advisors I really had! I think it’s important to understand what we had, an agreement from eight schools and BYU and a commitment of solidarity. It would have been a much better place than what the Mountain West could afford. The response to our decision has been overwhelmingly favorable. Our decision wasn’t to deny an invitation to the Mountain West. It was a decision to deny inquiry. Those are two different things. We would make the same decision 100 times again. Our mission is building quality athletes and winning championships. We believe that the Mountain West is a very viable option, but we also need to realize that’s a significant step up and we need to invest in that step up in doing so. It would clearly be a wonderful option at this time, there’s no question about that. A huge investment would have to be made in resources available for our student-athletes and coaches to be successful in that conference. Our coaches want to succeed, and that’s obvious, wherever they are.

<strong>FCP:</strong>

Possibility of WAC-TV network

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

There will be a release brought out here in the next few days relative to WAC TV. It’s a great addition to enhance our conference across the entire WAC footprint.

<strong>FCP:</strong>

Expanding the WAC?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

I think there’s real possibilities there. It’s too early to tell. The national landscape could be a factor in creating some opportunities. Our membership committee, which includes six athletics directors, met today in crafting a framework in what we want in new membership and who we might go after. Our intent is to make the WAC as good as it was, and maybe even better. Some of that is predicated on what happens elsewhere but that’s the only way we can go about it.

<strong>FCP:</strong>

Basketball schedule not released yet, still looking to fill games?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

There’s a chance to slip one in, we could go without another game. Our coaching staff works their tail off. Talk about rejection, it’s unbelievable how many “no”s they go through to get a “yes”. There’s still a chance we could squeeze another one in there, just wait and see.

<strong>Caller:</strong>

What is more difficult, on the phone trying to find the best possible situation for USU, or being on the phone with boosters and fans telling you what you should do?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

I appreciate talking to our faithful. They’re well-intentioned and they’re good people. That’s an easy one. I try to return as many phone calls and emails in that regard. The challenge is to create the best opportunities and not knowing the time frame, trying to create our own time frame.

<strong>FCP:</strong>

Tying a ‘guarantee’ game in football with a home-and-home series in basketball has been a long-time goal of yours, how did you pull it off this time?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

You try to throw that bait out there to get that fish and it just depends on what they’re biting. When we go out for that guarantee game we’re looking for market, in terms of dollars, and we demand and really want is a home-and-home in basketball. If we don’t, we move on to the next possibility. At the end of the day we sometimes don’t get what we want but this time we really hit the nail on the head and are looking forward to that home game in 2012 in basketball.

<strong>FCP:</strong>

Other guarantee games

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

We’re excited not just about the guarantee games. We’ve got Auburn coming up, Tennessee on the books, and USC now moving forward. Some of the regional rivals: we have a series with Wyoming, we’ve got a series with Colorado State, a series with San Diego State in a home and home. These are games that also allow us to move our football program forward. We’ve pretty much got 2011 and 2012 all wrapped up.

<strong>Caller:</strong>

Being in limbo how are we supposed to recruit? Looking at your legacy, are you concerned about being the athletic director that under your watch you allowed Utah State athletics to implode?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

First of all, let’s sell what we have. What we always sell: the quality of Logan, the university, the program, our resources, the facilities. Plus we have two years to figure out where we’re going to go. The other question isn’t worth answering, other than to say this: President Albrecht and I are lock-step in that if this decision was put before us, 100 times we would make the same decision. Our integrity and the plan we had was exactly what we wanted.

<strong>Caller:</strong>

So we have two years to sell ourselves to MWC?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

Number one, we are in a conference. We haven’t left the WAC. We have options. But we view our football program on the doorstep ready to kick it open. Our football program, as an example, brings more value to who we are and what we are. That helps our options moving forward.

<strong>FCP:</strong>

Any talks with Auburn and Tennessee about home-and-homes in basketball?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

As we go out and negotiate we have that in our request list. Sometimes that doesn’t work out. Every time we go out we request that and will continue to.

<strong>FCP:</strong>

Wyoming football series indicate that USU not going to MWC?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

Doesn’t mean anything at all. We have to put our scheduling in place regardless. No. We are moving ahead, filling our schedules. If we revamp, all those contracts will be revamped anyway.

<strong>FCP:</strong>

What else is going on in USU athletics this time of year?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

We are really excited. Heather (Cairns) recently picked to win the WAC again this year. Their team goal is to not only win the WAC but go to the NCAA tournament. Grayson (Dubose) and his program were picked higher this year and are getting more respect. He’s been right in the mix, he won coach of the year in one of his years here. We have a lot of different programs firing on all cylinders. Greg Gensell and the cross country this fall will be the best, or near the best, in the WAC and competing in the NCAA championships. Some remarkable success stories across the board. I couldn’t be more proud of our coaches and their success on the field and the quality of student-athletes they recruit and the job those student-athletes have in the classroom. As you know, last year again led the WAC in all-academic honors. 92 all-academic honors, the next closest was about 40 behind us. It’s going to be an exciting fall.

<strong>Caller:</strong>

I am more of an Aggie fan because of the way USU stood up for its principles. Are there more out there like me?

<strong>Barnes:</strong>

Yes, we’ve had far more comments like yours. They are so appreciative. That’s what’s so special about Cache Valley and Utah State. People hold true to their integrity and character. Now we plot a new course together. This is a time to be strong and move forward and we will create new opportunities that are great for our student-athletes and coaches and for our fans.

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