The rumors have swirled about the diminished stature of the Big East with some more key defections and those rumors have included fallout in the Boise State Broncos football camp.
The Broncos, currently scheduled to join the Big East in football for the 2013 season, have—according to some reports—been chatting with the Mountain West about reneging on that plan and remaining in the Mountain West. Why? A meeting of BCS commissioners resulted in the MWC, Big East, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences sharing equal billing when it comes to a BCS bowl berth.
What that translates out to is that any advantage that Boise State may have gleaned from jumping to the Big East has been removed.
Add to the mix that Rutgers has decided to leave the Big East for the Big Ten and Maryland is leaving the ACC to join the Big Ten. With the vacancy in the ACC, it is expected that either UConn or Louisville will jump in to fill the void.
With Rutgers leaving and if Louisville leaves, that essentially makes the Big East a very average football conference.
Given all that, should Boise State now leave the MWC for the Big East?
Boise State president Bob Kustra says the Broncos are committed to the Big East and intend to go.
Let’s look at reasons for staying in the Mountain West, or leaving for the Big East.
Let’s face it—the Big East is called the Big East because of the location of the bulk of the founding schools.
Now, of course the Big East has announced two divisions, and the western division held some of the more western-centric teams in its conference. But that was before Rutgers announced it was leaving and spots opened up in the ACC. That could mean a weakened eastern division and a realignment.
Doubtless, Boise State would stay in a conference with SMU, Houston, San Diego State and perhaps Temple. Comparative to the Mountain West schedule that is not too bad on travel. And, another consideration, could traveling to the East Coast really be much worse that traveling to Hawaii?
Maybe the Big East should simply rename itself, for football only, to the Big Coast-to-Coast.
With Rutgers on the way out, if either Louisville and/or UConn jump, that leaves the Big East with few "marquee" teams.
Boise State’s positioning in the polls certainly has drawing power, but without some solid eastern teams, the Big East is a so-so conference. If BYU rejoins the Mountain West, that adds a power to the MWC and would be a reason to stay in that conference.
If Navy joins the Big East, which has taken a hit with the BCS downgrade and the defection of Rutgers so that may not happen, that adds brand recognition. Unfortunately, that won’t happen until at least 2015, and if Navy perceives the Big East as a weakened conference, it could opt out.
With the loss of Rutgers, and the potential loss of another team, will the Big East have the financial incentive to keep a Boise State? And the supposition is that losing those teams would hamper negotiations for prime television coverage.
According to the ESPN story, BYU would take a hit to opt out of its independent status and media rights deal with ESPN. And the BCS decision about bowl eligibility doesn’t do the Cougars any favors either.
For Boise State, though, getting a schedule with some eastern teams would help expand exposure to the eastern media. That would be important for the polls.
Both the Boise State president and San Diego State’s athletic director have refuted talks with the Mountain West and say their schools are committed to joining the Big East.
Nice words, but they could be a mask to openly deny what may actually be happening. The schools would be foolish not to consider all options. It is also a sign of honor to commit and stand by that commitment. To jump out of the Big East deal merely states that joining the conference was not about advancing the programs but about the money involved.
SMU, Houston and San Diego State would be nice regional rivalries, allowing fans to make the trips to the games. The schools scattered across the eastern coast would make it more difficult for all but the diehards to journey. That makes television contracts more important.
Nevada and Fresno State have turned into a good rivalry, and if, perchance, Brigham Young decides to go to the Mountain West, that would likely become the biggest and best-scenario rivalry that Boise State could hope for.
To paraphrase the Clash song: "If they go there may be trouble, and if they stay it could be double."
The Broncos and Aztecs are scheduled to join the Big East for football only in July 2013. Boise State would gain a lot more by staying in the Mountain West, if the MWC gets a commitment from BYU. This would also allow Boise State to keep its other sports under the MWC umbrella.
This is a bit of a pickle, and both Boise State and San Diego State are up to their football eyeballs in the brine. Rutgers’ decision to leave was a shot amidships of the Big East. If Louisville leaves, the ship that is the Big East may be going down. That would not be a good situation for the Broncos.
It is obvious Boise State is hungering for a better football conference, and with all things considered, waiting a month or two to see what else might happen in terms of teams jumping conferences would probably be wise.
The Broncos could always stay in the MWC for the time being, re-establish itself as a Top 15 team and wait for a better conference to come calling.