When Boise State decided to go to the Big East in Dec. of 2011, the Big East was a viable conference. It had BCS automatic qualifier status, a national reputation, realistic hopes for a huge television contract and a solid membership.
On the final day of 2012 the Big East has none of those things anymore, and it doesn't have Boise State either.
Boise State will stay in the Mountain West for all sports, the school and conference announced. In the never-ending realignment game, this is an important step for the Mountain West and a major blow to the Big East, which is quickly sliding into irrelevancy.
“Without question, conference affiliation has been an odyssey for Boise State, with all the unexpected turns and changes that term suggests,” Boise State University president Robert Kustra said in a statement. “The benefits of geographic footprint, revenue, and national exposure have to be balanced against the changing circumstances of conference realignment. I am confident that our Mountain West membership is the very best decision for Boise State University, our student-athletes and our incredible fan base.”
The Mountain West has to be thrilled to have a flagship program, something it was lacking after BYU, Utah and TCU left in recent years. But it came at a pretty steep price. The Idaho Statesman confirmed that as part of Boise State remaining in the league, the rights to its home football games will be sold apart from the Mountain West's television contract. Brian Murphy of the Statesman said there will be a bonus structure for national television appearances: $300,000 for a national TV game and an extra $200,000 if it's on a Saturday. Boise State will get many more of those games than other MW teams, presumably.
Boise State has to pay a $5 million exit fee to the Big East, oddly enough, but that can be negotiated down and the Mountain West will help pay it, the Statesman said.
It's a calculated gamble by the league. Giving one school edges that others don't get never seems to sit well with the entire membership, but this was a way for the Mountain West to hold on to a school it felt it needed to maintain whatever national profile it has. Time will tell if that was the right move to keep the conference stable, or the one that ultimately won't sit well with the other 10 members. San Diego State announced it was going to the Big East with Boise State, and there has been no word on if it will end up back in the Mountain West as well.
As for the Big East, it's yet another embarrassing defection. There have been 14 schools to leave the conference the last two years. It now has to sell television networks on giving it a truckload of money when its major moves lately have been to add Tulane and East Carolina.
Good luck to the Big East trying to get that big television contract it was banking on. Television networks will probably want to see how many more schools leave the Big East before figuring out how much money it's worth to televise those games.
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