Boise State coach Leon Rice (AP)It will take quite a bit of extra cash, but Boise State appears to have ensured that moving its football program to the Big East won't doom its basketball program to the dying embers of the WAC.
Boise State President Bob Kustra told the Idaho Statesman Wednesday he has "no doubt" that the school's non-football sports will call the Big West home by the start of the 2013-14 school year. A formal vote of the Big West presidents may not take place until school starts next month, but Kustra doesn't expect any hang-ups.
The original plan for Boise State was to stash its non-football programs in the WAC before that league began to collapse over the past 12 months. Utah State and San Jose State announced they will depart, and Texas State, Texas-Arlington and Texas-San Antonio opted not to join, leaving the WAC on life support with Idaho and New Mexico State as its only football-playing members.
Once it became clear the WAC was no longer a viable option, Boise State had two options: Either back out of its Big East football aspirations and return to the Mountain West in all sports, or persuade the Big West to accept its non-football sports. New Big West member San Diego State supported Boise State's move because it would strengthen the league, but other California schools feared the costs of traveling to Idaho would outweigh the benefits of taking the Broncos.
To alleviate those concerns, Boise State enlisted the Big East's help to pay an undisclosed amount to the other Big West schools to help cover the increased travel costs. The Big East had little choice but to chip in because the Broncos made it clear they would return to the Mountain West if they couldn't find a viable home for their non-football sports and San Diego State hinted they had no interest in Big East football without Boise State.
"In those days, I had to go to the Big East and say, 'You guys are not neutral arbiters here. You must help us make this happen.' So the Big East Interim Commissioner Joe Bailey deserves credit for jumping in," Kustra said.
"If we had not made the decision we made, San Diego State, according to them, would probably not have been able to hang in there. And the Big West couldn't handle that. They couldn't lose San Diego State. It was a true partnership in every step of the way."
The Big West is certainly a better option for Boise State basketball than the WAC, but the Broncos are not an ideal fit in the Big West either.
Will Boise State fans fill their arena for annual appearances from Cal State Fullerton or UC Santa Barbara? And will the Broncos have any chance at competing for an at-large bid in what traditionally has been a one-bid conference?
Whereas San Diego State hoops can thrive in the Big West because it has accomplished enough to play a Gonzaga-esque nonleague 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.
That means Boise State will essentially be relying on outdueling the likes of San Diego State and Long Beach State for the conference's automatic bid in order to make the NCAA tournament. That's better than going independent or slumming it in the WAC, but it's hardly a favorable position for an oft-overlooked program still trying to escape the football team's shadow and carve out its own niche.