There is still much uncertainty regarding Boise State’s decision to join the Big East Conference for football only in 2013.
Due to the current instability of the conference, many teams that originally agreed to join sometime next summer are rethinking that decision.
Boise State heads that group as it debates whether or not to stay in the Mountain West Conference and wait for a better opportunity.
But based on the Mountain West’s performance this bowl season, the answer should be clear for school officials: leave for the Big East and don’t think twice about it.
Other than Boise State, teams from the Mountain West have for the most part mailed it in this bowl season. The conference is 1-4 in bowl games in 2012 and does not have any games left to try and improve that record.
Three conference teams (San Diego State, Fresno State and Air Force) were soundly beaten, and Nevada was the only school that had a chance to win in the game’s closing moments. The Wolf Pack suffered a heartbreaker in the New Mexico Bowl when Arizona recovered an onside kick and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 19 seconds left.
It wasn’t like the schools played elite competition, either.
San Diego State lost to a BYU team that had arguably its worst season since 2005. Air Force couldn’t move the ball in the first or third quarters against a 6-6 Rice squad. Fresno State’s offense was essentially nonexistent against SMU, which came into the Hawaii Bowl with one of the more shaky defenses in the country.
Obviously, it is difficult for a school to base a decision such as moving to a new conference on the success or failure during bowl season of other conference teams. But it could serve as the final straw in a decision that was leaning one way already.
Arguments used to be made for the Mountain West to receive an automatic qualifier to a BCS bowl each year. However, this argument was made when TCU and Utah were still members of the conference, not when Fresno State and Nevada were leading the charge.
Unlike the Mountain West, the Big East still retains an automatic qualifier-bid to a BCS bowl in 2013. After next season, the Big East will be lumped into the "Group of Five" with Mountain West with regard to securing an automatic bid to college football’s playoff structure.
When looking at it that way, the Big East doesn’t necessarily look like greener pastures.
But the Big East is a temporary spot for Boise State. It is for every team left in the conference, really. Louisville and Rutgers will remain in the conference until 2014 when they will then leave for the ACC and Big Ten, respectively.
Once those two teams leave, the Big East again becomes a fire sale for the most attractive schools left. Boise State and Cincinnati are undoubtedly at the top of the hill.
The way that the conference landscape is shaping up, it wouldn’t be surprising to see four conferences of 16 teams each in the future. Those 64 teams will be the ones vying for a spot in the playoff format, while all other teams will have to make the decision to settle for the lone "Group of Five" bid or leave the FBS scene completely and compete at a lower level.
Based on what has occurred over the past several months, it is clear that the Big East is much more unstable than the Mountain West. This boils down to the fact that the former is trying to remain a major player in the college football scene, while the latter has accepted its status as a second-tier conference.
In reality, both conferences may be of equal strength next season. But perception is key.
By making the move to the Big East, Boise State is signaling to other conferences that it is looking to find a home that will allow it to compete for college football’s biggest prize in the future. Staying in the Mountain West doesn’t make that statement.
Thus, the move to the Big East is a temporary one for Boise State. Within two years, expect the school to have made intentions to relocate again.
The Mountain West’s poor performance this bowl season isn’t the sole reason Boise State should leave for the Big East. But it sure makes the decision a lot easier.