When Boise State announced that it was staying in the Mountain West Conference instead of joining the Big East Conference this coming summer, it didn’t come as a surprise to many. The school was toying with the idea of staying in its current conference for about a month leading up to the final decision on Dec. 31st.
But the reasons the Broncos will continue to be a member of the Mountain West were rather surprising to those that do not follow the conference closely.
Like the power conferences that are adding new members left and right, the Mountain West brought to the table an offer that a school like Boise State simply couldn’t refuse: a lucrative TV deal.
The Mountain West Conference Catered to Its Cash Cow
While the allure of the Big East Conference may have been the ability to take advantage of its automatic qualifier status to a BCS bowl for one year, the conference’s ability to negotiate a TV deal was made increasingly difficult by the constant chaos regarding its members.
The Mountain West stepped up in a big way, essentially making Boise State the king of the hill in the conference.
According to Rivals.com, the Mountain West got down on its knees when the Big East simply would not. By re-negotiating a TV contract with CBS Sports Network, the conference can sell packages of its games to other networks.
Not only does this give the Mountain West the ability to maximize the exposure of its marquee matchups, but it allows for flexibility with its television contract, something every small conference would love to have.
In addition to revenue from television deals, the Mountain West agreed to give half of the money earned from a BCS bowl to the team that actually plays in the bowl. This is different from most conferences, which split BCS bowl money equally amongst every team.
Not only does Boise State benefit from the TV deal, but it stands to gain a lot more from any success it may have because of the revenue-sharing deal.
It is clear that the Mountain West knew it had a good thing in Boise State and was going to do whatever necessary to keep it around at least a little while longer.
The Big East Was Ultimately a Stepping Stone to Greater Things
The Mountain West’s TV deal was huge in Boise State’s decision to stay with the conference. But not just because of the green. It also established the Mountain West as a stable conference for the time being, which will be key if Boise State ever wants to move into a superconference in the future.
The Big East was not going to be a final destination for the Broncos, even if the conference did manage to stop the bleeding caused by the exodus of other schools.
Put simply, Boise State would have hoped to do the same thing as schools such as Rutgers and Louisville: get invited to join a conference that appears to be headed towards superconference status.
Deny it if you want, but the landscape of college football is changing. Conferences are not done expanding just yet, and they won’t be until at least four major conferences have 16 members. In the future, there will be a clear-cut line between the haves and have-nots in major college football because of this.
Boise State wants to be part of the former group. It should be, too, despite the complaints from some that the school has experienced only recent and perhaps limited success.
At one time, the Big East was filled with “haves.” Now the conference is struggling to stay alive by inviting members that will likely be a part of the “have-nots” when everything is said and done. Boise State does not need to be associated with that, especially considering that the Mountain West offers a better financial alternative.
Someday, the Broncos will need to be invited to a major conference. It used to look like the Big East was the best place to get asked to the dance. Thanks to the new TV contracts, that is no longer true. Why complicate things by adding an extra step?
Starting next season, the Mountain West Conference will have 11 members for football. As the logical choice for former members of the Western Athletic Conference, which folded as a football conference after the 2012 season, the Mountain West picked up more than half of its football members over the past three years.
No school appears to be going anywhere, at least for a while. Geographically, every school fits in the conference.
Those two things cannot be said with any confidence about the Big East Conference. In fact, San Diego State now has to face the same decision as Boise State regarding its conference affiliation for football.
According to Yahoo! Sports, San Diego State is considering making the same move as the school it originally followed to the Big East.
While the Aztecs would not receive the same financial benefits as the Broncos, stability has to be a major factor in the final decision.
In the end, the deals made within the last couple of weeks have completely shaken things up.
At one time, the Big East appeared to be the best decision for Boise State. A new contract and a few guarantees later, and there is no question that the Mountain West is still the right home for the Broncos.
It is yet another testament to the popular sentiment that “money talks.” In this case, it yelled.