SALT LAKE CITY -- What was intended as a prank in the Utah-Brigham Young rivalry has a group of Ute baseball players facing punishment much more
severe than either school could dish out.
Painting red "U"s on the "Y" on the mountainside overlooking the BYU campus in Provo got the players charged with a felony. Defense attorneys are
trying to get it reduced, but so far it's standing and a court hearing is scheduled for June 21.
"I'll be the first to admit we should be punished. There should have been something done," pitcher Ryan Breska said Thursday. "But a second-degree
felony charge seems a little much."
Breska, a reliever who graduated last month, and seven others are charged with second-degree felony mischief, which carries a maximum sentence of up
to 15 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Breska was arrested May 10 when he went to pick up pictures taken as the "Y" was painted April 30, the night before the Utes wrapped up a three-game
series at BYU.
"We did it in the hopes that it would be there for our next game on Saturday, just to add some fire to the rivalry -- not that it needs much," Breska
The Utes saw the effort had failed when the "Y" was a crisp white again by game time the next afternoon. BYU also won 14-9, completing a three-game
Breska thought that was the end of the prank, until he went to pick up his pictures at a local grocery store. A photo clerk who saw the pictures
called police, who had no trouble deducing Utah baseball players were involved because the film included shots from a team trip to New Orleans in
Police were waiting for Breska when he went to pick up the photos and was taken to the Utah County Jail, where he spent the night on the felony
charge. Breska was released the next day and police called Utah coach Tim Esmay to identify the other players, who were suspended for a game and later
Ryan Florence, Tyler Kmetko, Tyson Olson, Jacob Waldram and Eric Schaler, Jay Brossman and Jason Price are also charged. Schaler, a freshman pitcher,
quit the team before the end of the season.
Jeff Buhman, a deputy Utah County attorney who is prosecuting the case, said the charge is a felony because the damage estimate was more than $1,000,
the cutoff between a misdemeanor and felony. Pranks between the state's biggest rivals are common. Prosecuting them is not, Buhman said.
"Most of the time people don't get caught from either university. These guys got caught," Buhman said.
The giant "Y" is on a mountainside east of campus and is not accessible by road. Because painters had to climb the hill and use several coats of white
to cover the red, the cost of repairing the damage was estimated between $2,000 and $5,000.
BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said similar pranks in the longtime rivalry have been less frequent the past few years.
"I think people have realized the damage that's done and the financial ramifications to the damage," Jenkins said.
[Edited on 11/6/04 by TRD]