Boise State debating staying in Moutain West Conference with a new TV deal

Boise State Broncos quarterback Joe Southwick (16) throws a pass against the Washington Huskies in the 2012 Maaco Bowl at Sam Body Stadium. (Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports)

The seven, non-football schools in the Big East have announced their unanimous decision to leave the conference in two years. The vote by the ‘Catholic 7’ has lowered the value of a potential Big East TV rights deal by an estimated 15-to-20 percent.

Such a steep drop could mean that the Big East will not be able to secure the type of lucrative advertising dollars schools such as Boise State were promised when they were signing on to join the conference.

[Rumor Mill: Browns ownership preparing 10-year, $100 million offer for Nick Saban]

According to CBS Sports, Boise State had been promised between an $8- to $10-million annual revenue stream. With those numbers being wildly inflated due to the massive devaluation of the Big East product, it may simply be safer to stay home in the Mountain West.

Especially now that the Mountain West has agreed to a restructured television contract of their own that promises to be far more lucrative.

“The conference is as stable as it’s ever been in terms of conference membership,” a conference source said.

The conference’s new TV deal does not lengthen its ties to CBS, which run through the 2015-16 season, but rather provides the MWC with more leeway when selling games to other channels. CBS will still get the top pick of the week within the conference as the primary rightsholder, but after its priority picks are made the MWC can then go ahead and sell the rest of the games to up to two different competing networks.

Thus, other outlets, such as NBC, Turner and ESPN may all be nationally broadcasting Mountain West games next season, instead of simply smaller, regional channels.

The new restructuring may be worth millions in added revenue for what is right now a surging conference.

What all this means for Boise State is that the university will have to make a choice. The football team is not scheduled to join the Big East until the fall of 2013, and all the rest of its sports will be playing in the Big West. San Diego State is planning the exact same move.

However, San Diego State has not been in any contact with Mountain West personnel, according to ESPN’s Andy Katz.

“The Mountain West and Boise State are having ongoing dialogue about the Broncos staying in the conference instead of leaving for the Big East in fall 2013.”

Basically, the integrity of the football within either conference hinges on where Boise eventually ends up — in either the Big East or the MWC, the Broncos would be the headlining program.

Beginning next football season the Big East announced it would have a two-division format for football, with Boise State in the West Division with San Diego State, Central Florida, SMU, Houston and Memphis. The East Division is slated to include Rutgers, Louisville, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Temple and South Florida.

And then the issue arises in two years, where the two best teams currently in the Big East, Rutgers and Louisville, then leave for the Big Ten and ACC, respectively. At that point the Big East is scheduled to bring aboard Tulane, East Carolina and Navy right now.

On the other hand, the MWC is bringing aboard Utah State and San Jose State, both of whom are coming off monster seasons. They will be joining 2013 Mountain West members New Mexico, Colorado State, UNLV, Air Force, Wyoming, Nevada, Fresno State, and Hawaii in just football. All have pledged a commitment to the Mountain West (like a bunch of five year olds in a clubhouse; of course, but we digress).

The hope is that Boise State decides to stay home, pioneering an effort to lead the Mountain West to the top of the ‘Group of Five’ conferences.

Yes, there’s more.

Another reason Boise State was motivated to join the Big East was the fact that the conference champion was awarded an automatic berth in a BCS game. However, with the new playoff system due to be put in place in the 2014 season, the rules for entry have been modified. The Big East has fallen off so dramatically that its champion will no longer receive an automatic bid, but rather its champion must be the highest-ranked among the champs of the Mountain West, Conference USA, MAC and Sun Belt conferences.

The Big East may have been poached and splintered to the point of non-existence. If Boise State heads that direction as a football-only school, the rest of its athletic department will be exiled to the Big West. If it stays in the Mountain West, it will arguably be playing better football, the rest of its sports can stay home too, and if they win the championship, they will have a shot at a BCS bowl, which would be huge for the highly-decorated program.

Yes, the future of more than 20 athletic departments (and probably more, depending on how conference realignment unfolds following the Broncos’ choice) hinges on the decision of one school.

And that decision must be made quickly.

Athletic director Mark Coyle is on the clock.

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