Utah president says TV schedule not to blame for Wyoming's game-day attendance

Updated: October 4, 2003, 4:01 PM ET

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah president Bernie Machen challenged his counterpart at Wyoming on Friday, saying that president Philip Dubois' complaints about the Mountain West Conference television contract with ESPN are unfounded.

"We think he's trying to find explanations for some of the other problems he's got in his athletic department and blaming it on the league's TV contract," Machen said.

Machen is the chairman of the conference's executive committee, which denied Wyoming's request to keep its Oct. 18 home game against Brigham Young at 1 p.m. instead of moving it to 4 p.m. so it could be broadcast in Utah on Channel 5.

The league has a policy that requires schools to reschedule home games not chosen for the weekly regional ESPN broadcast to accommodate opponents' local television broadcasts, as the Utes have done with their homecoming game against San Diego State next weekend by moving the kickoff to 5 p.m.

Dubois said he told conference commissioner Craig Thompson that changing the start time of the BYU game would disrupt homecoming and hurt attendance -- and, in turn, affect the Cowboys' efforts to draw enough fans to comply with stricter NCAA attendance requirements that go into effect next year. Dubois said the Cowboys typically lose about 4,000 fans when games are scheduled at unconventional times.

Machen says that's not the issue.

"Most of us have found that problems with attendance are not related to off-the-field factors," he said. "Attendance problems are directly related to on-the-field factors." He claims Dubois is "looking for scapegoats" to blame for a poor football team -- the Cowboys are 1-4 under first-year coach Joe Glenn, and have won only six games since 1999.

"Every other team in the league has been accommodating this the last four years," Machen said. "If he has a problem, it's not with the league's television policy."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index