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OBNUG roundtable: Mountain West expansion

Moving to the Mountain West makes us feel all kinds of anxious and excited. We are anxious because we hate change. We are excited because we hate the WAC.

To help us sort out our feelings, we have dusted off the OBNUG Roundtable and invited a few new friends into the fold. In addition to OBNUG's Kevan and Nick, this version of the Roundtable also features OBNUG contributor Stephen Grettenberg and Fight Fight BSU's Drew. And rather than tackle the generic topic of MWC relocation, we decided to narrow things down and get to the heart of the matter:

TV coverage vs. an automatic BCS berth

Please shoot the breeze with us in the comments section or over on the OBNUG Facebook group. We are both anxious and excited to hear your opinion on this whole debate.

Kevan Lee: This is a topic that is dear to my heart, as is every topic involving the Broncos. Well, except for topics containing Taylor Tharp. I don't have much to say about him.

Moving conferences is always a hot-button issue among Bronco Nation. Call it Manifest Destiny, call it having Idaho in your conference. Whatever. The fact is that we love to speculate about the Broncos moving on to bigger and better places than the WAC.

So the question, it would seem, is if the Mountain West Conference is indeed bigger and better.

An important fact to consider is that this is 2008 and last year was 2007. Were we having this discussion a year ago, no one would be talking about the strength of the MWC and the weakness of the WAC. All this Mountain West talk is courtesy of their three or four good teams this season and their play against the Pac-10. One season does not a conference make (Winston Churchill).

The relative strength of the conference is not the issue here. What we're discussing are the possibilities for the Broncos, and that discussion comes down to this: is it better for BSU to stay in the WAC where it is guaranteed tons of exposure on ESPN's family of networks or is it better for the Broncos to move to the MWC in hopes that the conference can nab an automatic BCS berth?

I'm torn. You can credit ESPN for much of the Broncos' national recognition over the past decade. Without the Worldwide Leader, it is possible that BSU would not be where it is today.

At the same time, you play to win the game (Herman Edwards). And "winning" in college football means "going to a BCS bowl." Assuming the MWC can finagle an automatic entry, I find myself leaning toward the Broncos bolting the WAC and hooking up with the Mountain West. I'd better check to see if I get the .mtn on my DirecTV.

Am I being irrational? I can't tell any more.

Drew Roberts: Before this year I wasn't so sure that the MWC was that much better than the WAC—now I am certain of it. Boise State seems to have outgrown the WAC (we're talking football here), and the gap seems to be widening every day. The top of the Mountain West is simply much, much better and consistent than the top of the WAC, and I really think that Boise State trading blows with Utah, BYU, and TCU would be a beautiful thing.

There are major problems with the MWC TV contract (it blows), but the MWC bowl tie-ins are superior to the WAC's in every way. Now factor in a potential automatic bid to the BCS, and Boise State would be sitting pretty. Bottom line is that a conference with BYU, Utah, TCU, and Boise State would be very sexy...but the problem with competitive football that nobody sees is...well...that no one sees it.

Stephen Grettenberg: If there was an expansion of the MWC to include Boise State, they might also consider bringing in enough teams to make a dozen, up from their current nine. Other teams in this discussion include Tulsa (currently undefeated) and Fresno State. Why twelve teams? Well, for starters, most BCS leagues have twelve teams with two divisions and a playoff. That playoff conference championship brings in money and exposure. Which league is most likely to lose out if they dropped a league for the MWC? That would be the Big East, with no championship, eight teams, and one of the weakest BCS conferences, this year at least.

So, for the sake of argument, imagine this tougher conference, with the teams already in place - it would be a conference with enough heft to warrant a better TV contract. Where TV can make money, dollar and viewing options will follow. I can't believe something would not happen to increase the ease of watching significant games in an improved BCS-conference MWC.

Boise State might not be such a lock to win a conference like that every year. But in the best years, a MWC conference-champion Boise State could be in genuine national title discussions, just like the major teams of the existing BCS conferences.

Kevan Lee: I guess since we're assuming stuff, we might as well assume that the MWC will get a better TV contract, right? I'd also like to assume that Marty Tadman will be the commissioner of the conference. I hope that's okay.

If the MWC gets a new TV deal, the .mtn would probably have to become like the Big Ten Network - showing the conference games that ESPN doesn't get. I'd be fine with that. Essentially, it would remove the need for KTVB to ever cover a game ever again, and in that case, everybody wins.

Here's something to mull over: Can you deal with the Broncos not being the overwhelmingly best team in the conference like they have been in the WAC for so many years? I might not be able to.

Nick Kroes: I think that's what it boils down to. The greater the risk, the greater the reward. How much more can Boise State do in the WAC conference? They can be the perennial, lovable BCS buster? Don't we fans want something more than that?

Moving to a better conference seems to me to be the next step in the evolution of Boise State's football program. Whether or not the MWC is that conference remains to be seen. They are definitely the "in" conference as far as mid-majors are concerned this year, but whom have they really beat? Maybe perception is better than reality, so maybe the perception of the MWC as a better conference could actually work to Boise State's advantage. I mean, what if Boise State dominated the MWC the way they've dominated the WAC?

As for the television issue, personally I'm getting sick of the Broncos playing on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. To me, there is a tradeoff between getting the ESPN exposure and not being taken seriously because they never play on Saturdays or the occasional Thursday night ESPN game. I'm not sure if it's worth it anymore.

Kevan Lee: Interesting point. Anyone else feel that playing on Wednesdays and Fridays hurts the credibility of the program? I'm of the mind that any exposure is good exposure, so I don't have a problem with the wacky ESPN schedule.

As far as the move to the MWC and the chance of having a Bronco team that is not as dominant in conference as what we've come to expect, this scares me a little. I do not like change. I kind of enjoy knowing that the Broncos will get to beat up on six out of eight WAC teams each year. Utah State is like my personal security blanket. Who will be my security blanket in the MWC? Oh, right. I forgot Wyoming plays there.

There's no reward without any risk. So I guess I have to ask myself (and the rest of you): is the reward of an automatic BCS berth worth the risk of losing two or three games every season?

Stephen Grettenberg: I would say the risk is worth it. The best the program can possibly achieve in the WAC happened in 2006, so what do you do for an encore? It is even possible, if not probable, that an undefeated Boise State does not go to the BCS this year, not to mention the non-existent chances of undefeated Tulsa and Ball State going to the BCS. I think the program has to keep growing or lose its balls, so to speak.

Football is a gutsy game, played out with grit. What happens to the psyche of a team, of a fan base, if it is afraid to fight? I, for one, like games with more spunk than beating up patsies six out of eight conference games.

If Boise State did not have the courage to step up, they'd still be in a league with Idaho State. I think Boise State would be in the hunt for the MWC championship every year, and they would win often. What is the point of competing with no challenges?

Kevan Lee: Well, I guess it's decided. A move to the Mountain West would be the best solution for the Boise State football program, even if it means not winning 12 games every season and not being able to make fun of Robb Akey with as much regularity.

So can we just go ahead and get the move over with or do we need an invitation first?