Loyal Cougars

Why did Chris Hill offer to play BYU via email knowing his email is public?

Loyal Cougars recently filed three GRAMA (Government Records Access and Management Act) requests with the state of Utah and the University of Utah, and is now able to share some interesting facts that perhaps shed light on Utah Athletic Director Dr. Chris Hill’s February emails about a potential football series with BYU in 2019 and 2020.

We filed our requests after The Salt Lake Tribune published two different email exchanges between Utah and BYU officials that were received through GRAMA requests.

When reporting about the email exchange between Dr. Hill and BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe, the only comment attributed to Dr. Hill by the Tribune was that he wanted to let the emails speak for themselves. However, other emails that were not reported on by the Tribune provide some interesting context to the situation.

Dr. Hill’s other emails show that he had a reasonable expectation that his email to Tom Holmoe would soon be in newspapers, telling one supporter directly only weeks before that most of his email is public. Dr. Hill also told several fans who emailed him that he prefers they call him on the phone, rather than email him back.

Dr. Hill appears to rarely use his email in general and almost never for official work. Loyal Cougars obtained 80 email threads from the University of Utah covering a period from December 23, 2014 to February 4, 2015, and the only official business that was conducted was the discussion with Holmoe.

Another interesting although perhaps coincidental discovery was that the Salt Lake Tribune’s request that led to the publication of the apparently rare email exchange between the two athletic directors was made on February 6. The emails themselves had been sent just two days prior, on February 4.

Requests for comments from The Salt Lake Tribune, the University of Utah, and BYU were not returned.

We declined to ask the University of Utah to recognize Loyal Cougars as official media members for these requests, so each one took a few weeks. The parties responsible for releasing the emails, we learned, are not part of the state website that works with records created by other government entities, but the U.’s Office of General Council- the University’s own in-house lawyers. Eventually, we were able to request and receive what we believe is the same set of emails the Tribune received. Including Hill’s and Holmoe’s exchange, only twelve of the 80 email threads we obtained contained responses from Dr. Hill. Two were particularly interesting.

Dr. Hill says in one reply to a fan asking about negotiations with Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham, “Thanks most things I receive or send are public. How’s this…Kyle wants a compensation increase from $2.2 m to $3.2m for 6 years. Increase the buyout from $750k to $3m per year and a 3rd country club membership!”

In another email, Dr. Hill’s responds to a fan that advises that BYU and Utah should never again play football. The fan says this is because BYU is no longer a formidable opponent, the rivalry is toxic, and “BYU football has become known in recent years for playing well over the line in regard to safety.” Dr. Hill’s reply says, “You have some very good points. These are similar ones that I have received from other fans. Unfortunately at this time I’m not sure that the public at large would feel good about us not playing BYU. We seem to take many media ‘hits’ with this that sometimes are hard to overcome.”

Dr. Hill is speaking to and perhaps placating a devoted fan here, but he acknowledges media and public pressure are a factor in keeping the series alive and evidently feels the pressure to play the game is an unfortunate situation to deal with.

The email on which the Tribune reported does show Dr. Hill making an offer to play BYU in football, but Dr. Hill only offers to play on dates that BYU had already booked with major opponents. Holmoe responds with different dates that he claims they had discussed earlier.

Dr. Hill likely knew the teams and dates that BYU had already scheduled. Not only were those games recently announced, but a Salt Lake media member had sent him a lengthy email on January 8 advocating for the series. That email included a list of the teams BYU had announced they would play.

So, why would Dr. Hill make an offer to play BYU on those dates through email when he asks many of the fans that write him to call him on the phone and warns other fans that his email is public? Why this outlier behavior from Dr. Hill for the BYU negotiations? We offer two speculative explanations and perhaps others will add more.

Either Dr. Hill simply disregarded the public nature of his email for this one piece of department business and sent a genuine offer to play football with BYU, or, worried about the PR “hits” for canceling the series, Dr. Hill sent an email offering to play football with BYU on dates the Cougars already had filled and therefore would not accept. Two days later, the Tribune filed its request that would make that exchange public and Dr. Hill could then at least tell everyone, “See? I tried.”

Whatever the explanation is, maybe the lesson from this is that the next time anyone at BYU or anywhere intends to exchange email with anyone at the University of Utah, they should be aware that they are creating a public record that can be found and published very easily, at least, if someone wants it to be published.


  1. Swanee

    April 14, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    It is time to take a long break from this game. The time will come when Hill will be gone and then we can discuss the merits of having the game again.

  2. Darren Marchant

    April 14, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    isn’t it simply possible that Hill has 1,000 things more important than memorizing BYU’s schedule?

    • Edward Q Plum

      April 14, 2015 at 2:34 pm

      Like coming up with core values?

    • Ricardo

      April 14, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      Hahahaha. You think Hill is so busy (and his administrative assistants, for that matter) that he can’t call Holmoe and ask what BYU’s got going on or at the very least google BYU’s future schedules? Any idiot can do that. Hill is a doctor for crap sakes. A doctor!!! How many doctors do you know that are idiots???

      [OK, that last part was added just for fun.]

    • Mark MacArthur

      April 17, 2015 at 9:49 am

      No, that is not possible. Did u even read the article? Hill never uses his email for official business. That’s clearly his policy. Classic Ute fan response tho. “Little unimportant BYU.” Like it or not, BYU is a big deal.

    • gb13

      April 17, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      That’s it, said the ostrich with his head in the sand!

  3. dcflyer

    April 14, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Darren, I hope your comment was TIC because it sounds a bit juvenile. You can be sure that the ADs at both of the schools are well aware of the dates available for the rivalry game to be played.

  4. Zelda

    April 14, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Do you wear an aluminum foil hat to bed, too?

  5. brad

    April 14, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Will you publish the materials you received? The emails? Just put the PDFs (or whatever) online for us to view and download, please.

  6. Darren Marchant

    April 14, 2015 at 4:13 pm


  7. Malty17

    April 17, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Hill doesn’t want to play BYU. That’s OK. As a BYU fan, I don’t want the game unless it is in November. There are plenty of solid teams to play early in the season. In fact, it would be nice to scrap the rest of the three games for more interesting/less toxic opponents.

  8. Ken Reed

    April 17, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I too am sick of this “rivalry”. UW vs Oregon is a rivalry. It is fun. The Oregon Civil war is a rivalry. Also fun. This is not a rivalry. It is the toxic focus point for Mormon haters. These teams should never play again. BYU doesn’t need Utah and vice versa. The only thing the game represents to Utah is a tough opponent. They are already pretty overwhelmed with tough opponents.

    From the BYU side, Utah represents the possibility of a bad loss; a loss to a PAC-12 bottom half team.

    Who cares if they every play again? Not me. That’s for sure.

  9. Brian

    April 18, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    Who wants the Ute game again? Its not even enjoyable. Far better teams to slate across the country. No one wants to hear the real issue, and want to chalk it up to “oh it’s a heated rivalry” or “they just love their team.” I’ve never been treated poorly in any other stadium, ever. Texas. Note Dame. BC. Ole Miss. Alabama. Fans that love their teams. Always treated with respect. But I have actually feared for the safety of my family in RES. I’ve seen posters mocking the Prophet, and “F-U BYU”. Utah has a pathetic fanbase and a real problem on their hands. They’ve become the flag bearers and defacto gathering spot for the State’s under-culture, and anti-Mormons in general. But the greater problem is that administrators, coaches, stadium workers, and other Ute fans KNOWS this is the case and do nothing to address it or stop it. I’m not the only one that sees it. Letting it go on only raises suspicion that those in charge feel the same way, sympathize with or otherwise turn a blind eye to the issue. School administrators don’t address it. BYU has no business scheduling with such a classless program.

  10. Russ

    April 21, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Agree with others: Until Utah is willing to play in November, BYU doesn’t gain anything from playing them. There are a surplus of P5 teams willing to play in September.

  11. freed

    April 28, 2015 at 4:59 am

    Hey Gregy-
    Why did you turn comments off on your last joke of an article? Scared of the responses much? I love how because a couple conferences added byu & ARMY in their clause for an easy out some year that they wanted to schedule light and they know independent teams need games, guys like you assume that now byu has reached the big time and are now ‘P5’. Listen closely, if you were considered P5, you would be in a P5 conference or affiliated with one like Notre Dame. Your not! Them including Army should be all you people should have to hear to understand their motives for including byu in their clause, but no, your lot are gonna run with it and proclaim yourselves P5. Its kinda embarrassing.
    ybu isnt a P5 team because they don’t have, nor will they ever have the athletes to be one. Simple as that. You can have your church affiliation that puts butts in seats and a little extra money in the coffers but its just lipstick on a pig and people that don’t realize byus situation with getting real athletes might be suckered into thinking they are relevant, but those who know, and byus fanbase know better than most, know they are far lacking in that department and will never bring in those athletes to compete at the highest of levels. Wake forest and teams like duke arent storied programs but they get athletes still and have the potential to be good and compete like duke the other year and thats why they are in the P5 when it doesnt seem like they should be. Once again, simple as that!