Boise State did something that seemed a bit desperate recently. They joined the Big East. And the Big East seemed equally desperate in their pursuit of a school that's neither big nor East.
But that was the world we were living in six months ago.
It was a world where the BCS had so screwed up the priorities that Boise to an East Coast-based conference was a indeed a head-shaker, but a move that everyone knew why both sides were interested in making.
But as they say...big things come in small packages. And in this case, big changes came in a small period of time.
The playoffs are upon us.
The bowls formerly known as BCS bowls are likely going to be host sites for national semifinal playoffs. That renders the whole AQ (automatic qualifier) versus non-AQ consideration moot.
That means a decision that might have had some merit just a few short months ago no longer does. And Boise, if it had made the same decision in this new environment, would likely not sign on the dotted line.
Sure, the Big East still needs Boise, but Boise now has a better option. That would be to remain in the Mountain West.
Here are five reasons why the Mountain West is superior to the Big East for Boise State.
1. Besides the previously important incentive of being in an AQ conference, which meant that winning said conference guaranteed Boise a trip to a BCS bowl (something winning the WAC or the Mountain West never did), the other reason to jump was better TV money.
The Big East was about to renegotiate their rights with ESPN and the Mountain West was stuck in an under-performing regional cable network that was poorly conceived and even more poorly executed.
But that has all changed.
The Big East held out for more money than ESPN wanted to give when the first negotiating period came and went. Now it won't get anywhere near that kind of money.
But the Mountain West scrapped "The Mountain" Network and will look to negotiate their TV rights package on the open market. With the playoffs model more lucrative and the WAC money most likely finding its way to the Mountain West once the WAC tent folds (any day now), there is some room on the upside for the Mountain West...especially if Boise joins it again.
2. The Mountain West is more stable than the Big East. And this is even more true if Boise rejoins it. Rutgers is the LONE founding member of the Big East still there. And they are trying very hard, very publicly to get into the Big Ten or the ACC.
If another round of expansion occurs, Rutgers will be gone.
The new Big 12 Commissioner seems very serious about expansion and realizes the vulnerable position that the league is in. They would love Notre Dame but know it's not happening.
Thus, Louisville and BYU are rumored to be on the Big 12's radar. If Louisville leaves the Big East (and they lobbied hard to get West Virginia's invitation this past year), that removes a decent football team, one of the few good basketball schools left in what used to be an excellent league and a large media market.
These developments would leave the league as truly Conference USA 2.0...a league no better than the Mountain West with every away game 2,000 miles away. This is not a place Boise wants to find themselves in later. The money would become no better than the Mountain West and the travel expenses would be a killer.
3. The WAC is DEAD. This is a problem for Boise. They tried to get their non-football sports into another league last year when the Big East issued a football-only invitation and were unsuccessful.
So Boise went back to the WAC with them. Boise's administrators and coaches in those sports still had pull with the WAC having been in that conference. That was the only thing that made the football-only Big East move feasible.
Now, the WAC will be no more and the Mountain West is keeping with their bylaws and insisting that teams join in for football if they want to put their non-football sports in the league.
4. If Boise returned to the Mountain West, the league has already signaled to San Diego State that it would also be welcome back. This would give the league 12 teams, representing the magical number to host a championship game.
Boise has a very high probability of being in the championship game almost perennially in either conference. But one will host it in Denver or Salt Lake and one will host it near the East Coast. Obviously, the Mountain West site would allow more Boise fans to actually go to the game.
5. The Mountain West now contains most of the schools Boise already had forged significant relationships with. The reconfigured Mountain West will feature Nevada, Fresno, San Jose, Hawaii and Utah State from the WAC.
Utah State and San Jose were added because they reside in large markets, but the other schools represent merging the top of the WAC into the Mountain West...something that needed to happen long ago.
And existing members New Mexico, Colorado State, Air Force, Wyoming and UNLV are more prestigious league mates than the WAC left-behind members Idaho or New Mexico State.
Adding Boise State to this collection makes it arguably a better conference than the Big East, which sports SMU, Memphis, Temple, Navy, University of South Florida and other "has-beens" and "wanna-bes."