BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said he hasn't given any thought to his football program going independent since he was asked the question at the Mountain West Conference meetings in July.

Cougar junior offensive tackle Matt Reynolds said he heard about the latest developments "from somebody who heard from somebody who read it off the internet."

But the smoke has risen to the point where a move to independence seems imminent.

Mendenhall and his players have plenty to occupy them on the field with less than three weeks before the home opener against the University of Washington. But Wednesday there were numerous reports indicating BYU will leave the MWC for the Western Athletic Conference and go independent in football.

For months - ever since the first wave of conference expansion sent Utah and Colorado to the Pac 10, Nebraska to the Big 10 and the Cougars stayed put - local speculation was that BYU was considering a move to independent status. Speculation has started to become reality. A report in the Salt Lake Tribune said a source within the WAC indicated BYU was waiting on approval from the LDS Church for the go ahead and an announcement was imminent. The Deseret News later quoted a source as saying it was a "done deal."

A larger-than-usual media horde after BYU's scrimmage on Wednesday went away disappointed, because Mendenhall said he had nothing to add to those reports.

"I'm not in the loop regarding anything in that way," Mendenhall said. "It looks like you all came down here for nothing. If there is anybody (to talk to) it would be (Director of Athletics) Tom Holmoe or (Associate AD) Duff Tittle. That would be where I would go, but I have no idea what you're talking about."

When he was told Tittle was in a golf tournament, Mendenhall laughed and replied, "That's a bad deal for you guys, isn't it?"

Mendenhall didn't go as far as his counterpart at Utah, Kyle Whittingham, who said he wouldn't answer any more questions on the Utes move to the Pac 10. But the Cougar head coach did say he has more important matters at hand.

"I have so much going on with who's going to play quarterback, who's going to play tight end, who's going to play inside linebacker ... And this is serious: If you think I spent one minute thinking about it since I was asked at media days? I haven't.

"I hate to disappoint everyone today. I don't get on the internet period. I haven't for five years since I became coach since I really don't value what it has to say. At this point I can't say I don't care but other things take precedence."

Reynolds said he and the rest of the team would follow Mendenhall's lead.

"All the rumors have come from outside the program, so any validity that's there we won't know until our coaches comment on it," Reynolds said. "We just have to put our heads down and practice. We can't focus on what's going on outside. We have a lot to figure out before Sept. 4, before Washington comes down here."

No comment: Here is what BYU Associate AD Duff Tittle had to say about today's events.

"In response to the many reports concerning BYU's conference alignment, the Athletic Department has released the following statement.

We are aware of the many media reports and questions circulating about BYU's conference alignment. As Director of Athletics Tom Holmoe explained recently, BYU has been reviewing, and will continue to explore, every option to advance its athletic program. At this point, BYU has no further comment."

New invitations: As a counter move to possibly losing BYU, the MWC on Wednesday invited Fresno State and Nevada of the WAC to join the league. One problem: After Boise State left the WAC for the MWC, all remaining teams signed an agreement to pay a $5 million penalty for switching to another conference.

Back to football: BYU was down four key receivers for Wednesday's scrimmage. Junior O'Neill Chambers was disciplined for actions during Tuesday's practice and didn't not dress. Junior McKay Jacobson missed practice because of illness and freshman Ross Apo experienced tightness in his hamstrings, so he was held out as well. In addition, freshman tight end Mike Muehlmann, who had been sharing snaps on the No. 1 offense with freshman Devin Mahina, has an AC shoulder separation.

Wednesday's scrimmage went about 70 plays, with around 20 for the No. 1's and 25 each for the 2's and 3's.

Freshman Jake Heaps led the only scoring drive of the scrimmage with the No. 1 offense against the No. 3 defense. A 41-yard run by junior J.J. DiLuigi set up a 14-yard touchdown pass from Heaps to freshman tight end Richard Wilson.

"I'm not sure I was impressed overall," Mendenhall said. "I think it was just a chance to see a lot of our younger guys, see how our run defense was, see how our running backs played. There was not much downfield throwing. It was a chance to keep evaluating players."

Junior Riley Nelson was 10 of 14 for 90 yards and is getting better at consistently picking up first downs. Heaps was 6 of 10 for 45 yards and the one touchdown. Wilson, who has played well of late, caught two passes for 34 yards and a score.

The 2's and 3's took the final five possessions of the scrimmage, with freshmen James Lark and Jason Munns rotating at quarterback. Junior Mike Hague (8 carries, 23 yards) and freshman Ryan Folsom (9 carries, 37 yards) led the rushers in that segment.

There were some big hits delivered by senior cornerback Brian Logan, freshman linebacker Zac Stout, sophomore linebacker Austen Jorgensen and junior safety Steven Thomas. Freshman linebacker Kyle Van Noy registered a sack.

New Cougar: Total Blue Sports is reporting that American Fork offensive lineman Ryker Mathews (6-6 270) has made an oral commitment to BYU for the recruiting class of 2011. That gives the Cougars 13 commitments in what is expected to be a smaller-than-usual class.

Daily Herald Sports Editor Darnell Dickson can be reached at 801-344-2555 or by e-mail at ddickson@heraldextra.com