Leon Rice (AP)If Boise State follows through with its plan to leave the Mountain West and join the Big East in football either in 2012 or 2013, the options for its often-overlooked basketball program look less appealing by the day.
The Broncos' current plan is to stash all non-football sports in the WAC, a conference on life support now that Utah State and San Jose State appear set to depart and Texas State, Texas-Arlington and Texas-San Antonio are unlikely to join. Those moves would leave the WAC with Idaho and New Mexico State as its only football-playing members, along with Boise State, Seattle and Denver in other sports.
The WAC can survive as a basketball-only conference by adding the likes of Utah Valley State and Cal State Bakersfield, but that option doesn't make the rapidly deteriorating league any more attractive for Boise State.
Whereas San Diego State hoops can thrive in the Big West because it has accomplished enough to play a Gonzaga-esque non-league schedule that can keep the program in at-large contention, that's not an option for Boise State right now. The Broncos have shown signs of promise under coach Leon Rice, but they're not an attractive opponent for high-profile teams since they've still have made only one March Madness appearance in 18 years and have never won an NCAA tournament game.
Some of the young talent Rice is collecting at Boise State suggests a renaissance for the basketball program may not be out of the realm of possibility if the school can find a quality home for the team. That would require the school to renege on its decision to send the football team to the Big East, perhaps a more viable scenario now that the Mountain West has equal access to the future four-team playoff as former BCS-affiliated leagues.
If Boise State still believes the Big East's TV contract is too rich to justify remaining in the Mountain West in all sports, then the basketball program's options are limited.
The Mountain West won't accept non-football members. The all-California Big West doesn't want to expand its geographic print that far. The WCC turned down Boise State as well, preferring to stick with only private schools. The only other possibility besides the WAC would be the Big Sky, which isn't any more likely to produce at-large teams in the near future.
The demise of the WAC has certainly complicated Boise State's situation a bit. Football is certainly still king at the school, but administrators will have to decide whether joining the Big East in one sport is worth jeopardizing any progress the Broncos have made in their others.