Jeff Eisenberg

Mountain West adds Boise State with an eye on Big 12 leftovers

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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A mere four days after the Mountain West declined to invite Boise State until it had a better grasp of what other schools would be available, the conference has changed its mind and added the Broncos to the fold.

The abrupt reversal raises one obvious question: What factors caused league officials to suddenly decide on Friday that the timing was right?

Did the Mountain West just come to their senses and realize adding Boise State was the right decision? Or did it become clear that potential Big 12 leftovers like Kansas, Kansas State and others were simply unlikely targets? Or do league officials think that the addition of the Broncos could help lure other schools to the Mountain West?

The answer, according to what Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said on a Friday afternoon teleconference, is a little of everything.

First and foremost, Thompson said it was important "to make sure we got Boise State University in the fold." Secondly, he added that bringing in the Broncos could send a message of strength to current members who might be exploring other options and prospective members that could consider accepting an invitation.

"That was a consideration," Thompson said. "We're trying to build as good a place to land and stay as those nine as we can. That was something discussed. Let's just get as strong as we can and become as attractive a conference as we can if we are recruiting additional members."

The addition of Boise State will give the Mountain West at least 10 members by the 2011-12 school year, but Thompson believes it's possible the conference could grow to 12 or more. Asked whether he's been in contact with Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri or any other current Big 12 members who may be left out of a potential Pac-16, Thompson acknowledged, "I've had conversations last night and through this morning with several institutions."

Of course, it's also possible that the Mountain West could lose a member or two to realignment depending on how things break. Utah could be a possibility for the Pac-10 if the Big 12 South doesn't come and BYU or TCU could potentially join the Big 12 if it somehow staved off collapse.

No matter what happens, Thompson is happy to add a football school the caliber of Boise State in hopes that it will help the Mountain West one day earn an automatic bid to the BCS. He believes that's well worth also taking on Boise State's undistinguished basketball program, one that will that will likely struggle against the likes of BYU, San Diego State and UNLV until new coach Leon Rice can bring in Mountain West caliber recruits.

And if the presence of the Broncos helps convince current members to remain in the Mountain West or some of the remaining Big 12 teams to join? All the better.

"We may be done, but we anticipate continuing the dialogue that started yesterday," Thompson said. "I know we are continuing to look to grow the Mountain West Conference."

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