BSU sports staying in the Mountain West

Brad Iverson-Long//December 31, 2012

BSU sports staying in the Mountain West

Brad Iverson-Long//December 31, 2012

The Boise State Broncos will stay in the Mountain West Conference, where they've lost just two conference games, including one to Texas Christian University in 2011. Like TCU, BSU spurned the Big East Conference. Photo courtesy of Boise State University.

The Boise State University football team won’t move to the Big East Conference, as the university has elected to stay in the Mountain West Conference in all sports. Boise State President Bob Kustra said the MWC’s new TV deal and bowl payout structure, both of which could get the Broncos more money if they remain a top-tier team, factored into the decision.

“This has been an odyssey for Boise State, with all the unexpected turns and changes that term suggests,” Kustra said in a statement announcing the decision. “The responsibility for conference membership lies at the desk of the university president and it’s one I have taken very seriously. The benefits of geographic footprint, revenue and national exposure have to be balanced, one to the other. In this day of constantly shifting memberships, the value of those benefits also shifts, often into the unknown.”

BSU’s decision to stand pat comes after months of tumult for the Big East. It has lost several football teams since BSU announced in October 2011 that it would join the conference and has yet to sign a new TV contract for football. The conference’s basketball-only schools, mostly smaller Catholic universities on the East Coast, also announced their plans to leave the conference in December.

BSU’s other athletic teams, most of which were set to move to the Big West Conference in July 2013, will also remain in the Mountain West.

The new pact with the MWC also gives Boise State control of TV broadcast rights for its home football games. The conference has an agreement with the CBS Sports Network, a cable channel not included on many cable packages. Now, BSU could negotiate to have its games on more popular channels, including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC or ESPN, which would attract more viewers and net BSU more money.

“This innovative proposal to get football the maximum exposure on national television will be a tremendous boost to our program as we continue to grow the Bronco brand,” head coach Chris Petersen said in an athletic department news release.

According to BSU releases, any MWC team, including BSU, that appears on one of those networks would receive a $300,000 bonus, plus a $200,000 bonus if the game is on a Saturday. Historically, BSU has played games mid-week that have been broadcast on ESPN, including a 2012 Thursday game against Brigham Young University. All other added revenues from appearing on national networks would be split among conference teams.

BSU could also fare better in the MWC if it reaches a Bowl Championship Series game. Under the new deal, any MWC team that plays in a BCS game would get half of the BCS payment. This year, BCS payouts start at $17 million. Getting half that amount would be a step up from the less than $5 million BSU got for each of its BCS appearances in the Fiesta Bowl in 2006 and 2010.

BSU is now the second team to leave the Big East before playing a single game in the conference. Texas Christian University, which BSU beat in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, agreed to join the Big East before moving on to the Big 12 Conference in 2011.

BSU reportedly must pay a $5 million exit fee to the Big East. According to the BSU athletic department, there are provisions that can lower the fee. ESPN reported that BSU also has a financial obligation to the Big West Conference.

The Broncos will also be allowed to wear their blue uniforms in home conference football games. MWC rules for the past two years prevented BSU from wearing blue on Bronco Stadium’s famed blue artificial turf.

Staying in the MWC also reduces travel for BSU teams and fans and preserves some rivalries. While the Big East is set to have football teams ranging from San Diego to Connecticut and Florida, the majority of MWC teams are in the Mountain Time Zone, though the conference includes the University of Hawaii in football. Utah State University, which recently won the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at Bronco Stadium, will join the MWC next season, as will San Jose State University.

“Maintaining the Broncos program as part of the already solid foundation we have established creates a posture of great stability for the Mountain West going forward,” conference commissioner Craig Thompson said in a news release.