With Boise State reportedly about to receive an invitation to join the Big East, Boise State president Bob Kustra (pictured) and the Bronco fans seem less than thrilled about the offer. Kustra has said he hasn’t ruled out staying in the Mountain West Conference and 40% of fans voting on the Boise fan site OBNUG.com prefer staying in the MWC as opposed to just 33% that want to bolt.
First of all, there’s the morality and loyalty issue. While those two things are a farce at most athletic departments (as we’ve seen over the last several months), those things matter immensely to the good folks of Idaho. And it would certainly look hypocritical for the same people that just ripped TCU for hop scotching from the Mountain West to the Big East to the Big 12 as part of a cash grab to then endorse a move for Boise to the Big East.
Then there’s the geographical issue. Yes, it will be absolutely brutal for fans and family to follow the Broncos on the road at the likes of Morgantown, WV, and Piscataway, NJ.
In turn, Boise backers are worried that being portrayed as an East Coast team and playing so many games east of the Mississippi River will hurt Boise’s recruiting efforts in California, which has become a pipeline of talent for the Broncos.
Boise State fans also aren’t thrilled that the Broncos are being invited for football only. The thought is, “If the Big East is so desperate to add Boise, why can’t they add the Broncos in all sports instead of requiring men’s basketball and others to find a conference for themselves?”
And finally there’s the issue of the automatic BCS bid. If the Broncos jump to the Big East and the conference loses its Automatic Qualifier status, the Broncos will be no better off than they are now, people say. And there is certainly reason for concern as people have already claimed the Big East doesn’t deserve an automatic bid – and that was before Syracuse, Pittsburgh and TCU were on their way out of the conference.
Yes, your complaints have been heard. But with all due respect, they are either short-sighted or heavily outweighed by the positives of moving to the Big East.
First of all, the major upside in all of this can’t be stressed enough: Money. The Big East receives nearly $10 million more each year than the Mountain West because of its automatic qualifier status and I highly doubt the BCS would strip the Big East of being an AQ conference with the likes of Boise State and West Virginia still in the conference. If you haven’t noticed, the BCS isn’t big on change.
Also, the Big East is about to get a new TV contract.
No, it won’t be nearly as much as the blockbuster deal the Pac-12 landed for $3 billion over 12 years, but it will certainly be a lot more than the dinky $200 million deal the conference is currently working off of – and much more than the Mountain West is getting from the fledgling Mtn. Network.
That money will do a lot of good for a Boise program that is currently undergoing a $100 million stadium renovation and expansion and has tacked on another $20 million for a football facility.
Speaking of television, heading to the Big East will get the Broncos back on ESPN nearly every week. After a season-opening win over Georgia, Boise State has virtually disappeared with games airing on the Mtn. Network and Versus because the MWC doesn’t do business with the Worldwide Leader.
How do you think coach Chris Petersen feels about not having his games seen nationally by recruits? Probably about the same way he feels about the MWC barring Boise State from wearing all-blue uniforms at home on the Smurf Turf, which he was quoted as calling “ridiculous.” And the idea that California recruits won’t want to travel East is misinformed. Eighteen-year old kids are more worried about what uniforms they are wearing for the game than how far they have to go to play.
Then there’s what would remain of the Mountain West Conference if Boise decided to stay. Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada are on their way next year but without BYU (who left last summer), TCU leaving next summer and Air Force likely gone as well, the Bulldogs and Wolf Pack would probably join San Diego State as the top three teams in the conference immediately. That’s not good. Especially when you have the likes of Colorado State, New Mexico and UNLV scrapping the bottom of the barrel.
And with UCF, Houston and SMU likely gone from Conference USA, Boise State could look forward to MWC-C-USA title games between them and Southern Miss for years to come. Not exactly must-see TV.
Oh yeah, and if Boise fans thought getting a BCS bowl bid was already difficult, wait until they experience trying to get a BCS bid from the new Mountain West-C-USA alliance that will be even weaker than what the WAC used to be when Boise was a member. If the Broncos had a year when they weren’t able to schedule tough non-conference games to start the year, I think there’s a chance Boise could go undefeated in the new MWC and still get locked out of a BCS game.
And the biggest reason why Boise State needs to jump to the Big East? If the Broncos were stuck in a watered down Mountain West playing on Versus all the time, I don’t think it would take long until Petersen left Idaho. In his sixth year on the job, Petersen has remained immensely loyal to Boise’s program over the years, including turning down Stanford this past offseason in what many would see as a dream job for a Northern California native.
But how can Petersen expect to stay with Boise in a diluted conference with little national exposure when the Broncos decided to stay in the Mountain West for reasons like geographic sense and not getting all the sports invited?
Yes, the offer isn’t ideal for the Broncos and Boise fans can still lament getting passed over by the Pac-12 for Utah and not getting an invite to the Big 12.
But if they play their cards right, this will only last for a couple years until Boise can break into the Pac-12 or Big 12 for more money and a more natural fit.
And if Boise turns down the Big East, loses Petersen and falls back down to Earth after becoming a perennial top 10 team, they will only have themselves to blame.
Jim Weber is the founder and president of LostLettermen.com. His column appears each Monday.