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Money vs. exposure: How a new TV contract may affect Boise State football

If Boise State goes to the Mountain West Conference as is their destiny, one of the worst gifts they will get is the albatross that is the MWC's TV contract. The Idaho Statesman's Chadd Cripe pieced together a comprehensive breakdown of the TV deal, in all its exhilarating, depressing glory, and Cripe came to the following conclusion: Boise State will make more money and that is all that matters.

Is it, though? The Broncos would also be sacrificing a great deal of exposure to live in the backwoods of premium cable. Is extra income enough to outweigh the loss in viewership? After the jump, get some info for both sides of the argument, and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments and in the poll. Money or exposure: Who you got?

If you only read one thing today ...

Let it be Chadd Cripe's comprehensive look at the Mountain West TV contract. Cripe covers everything from contract length and value (10 years, $120 million, set to expire in 2016) to the likelihood of local broadcasts (not very likely).

For a brief primer, here's how the Mountain West's TV contract works. Games air on Versus, CBS College Sports, and The Mtn. The two national networks - Versus and CBSCS - function similarly to how ESPN does with WAC games. Those networks pick and choose the best games to air when it is convenient for them. The rest fall to The Mtn. In the WAC's contract, games not picked up by ESPN can head to local TV.

Chadd Cripe has his mind on the money and the money on his mind

According to Chadd Cripe, money heals all wounds - even the wounds you get when your team's game is aired immediately following a New Mexico - BYU women's soccer match.

I know fans are concerned about the availability of games and some people think being on ESPN less will hurt the Broncos, but there's really only one part of that TV deal that's going to matter. By my estimate, Boise State would get about $700,000 more per year from the Mountain West contract.

But wait!

Local Fox sports director Nate Kuester, in his quixotic attempt to turn into a Huffington Post, weighed in with his take on Boise State and the impending TV contract of ignominy. Not to give everything away in a headline, but "If Broncos join Mountain West finding games on TV could be harder."

The future is a bit hazy, but if Boise State loses the prominence it currently receives from the ESPN televised games, the future Kyle Wilson's watching in New Jersey may never see the Broncos in action, and they'll overlook playing on the Blue out of sheer ignorance because they simply never saw it on the tube.

Okay... Perhaps I'm being overly-dramatic, but you get my point. The WAC's TV agreement with ESPN is far superior and offers Bronco Nation so much more in terms of television value and exposure for the program.

Yes, that is a bit overdramatic. The idea of an up-and-coming high school football player being ignorant about Boise State is a virtual impossibility at this point. Nevertheless, Kuester's take on the exposure issue is pretty much what everyone else is thinking, too.

Why money matters

To say Boise State athletics loves money would be like saying Chris Ault loves shopping at GAP Kids. Everything the Broncos do can be traced back to turning a quick buck. Remember Bronco stock? Yeah, that happened. What about Gene Bleymaier changing his Weber State scheduling stripes for BCS competition with big paydays? Yes, indeed.

The fact that the Broncos would only be concerned with an extra pile of money when it comes to a TV contract with serious downsides is not surprising at all. Plus, apparently there's a recession or something.

Considering Boise State cut its budget and had layoffs at this time last year, ($700,000) is a significant amount of money.

While I doubt that Gene Bleymaier looks at the Mountain West's TV contract and thinks, "Sweet, I can hire back Judy in accounting," I can definitely buy that money plays an important role in the decision-making for the Broncos. Boise State has big plans to expand stadiums, improve sports, and continue getting bigger, faster, stronger. They have made it clear time and again that they need money to do that. BroncoShop is not a cash cow, for goodness' sake.

College football acts on whatever can turn the biggest profit (see: BCS and the Heisman Trophy presented by Nissan). Why should Boise State be any different?

Why exposure matters

I view the exposure issue as a threefold problem. The first fold: recruiting. As Nate Kuester so eloquently exaggerated, many Boise State players came to the area because they admired the team on TV. Jerrell Gavins is from Florida where they most certainly do not air The Mtn. Everyone knows Kyle Wilson's story. It seems like every year there is a player who joins the team who credits the Broncos' national TV success as a deciding factor in their choice of school.

But it goes beyond even that. Many players get excited to play for Boise State because they know they will get to play on ESPN five or six times a year. You do not hear three-star recruits getting jacked up about Saturday day games on CBS College Sports. And if such a recruit exists, Idaho probably has a bead on him.

The second fold: national prestige. Every time Boise State plays on ESPN, their logo and colors are splashed on preview ads, they are discussed ad nauseum by pregame crews and half-time studio hosts (Mark May: gag), they get a full three-to-four hours of air time depending on how long Joe Tessitore goes on about his fantasy team, and they are a regular on highlight shows.

Voters watch the Broncos play (which is both good and bad sometimes), national media watches the Broncos play. Boise State is a commodity thanks to ESPN.

The third fold: Bronco Nation. In case you haven't noticed, Bronco fans are pretty much everywhere. Bronco Nation has gone nationwide and worldwide, and exposure on ESPN is one of most important reasons why. If The Mtn. is not available anywhere but Mountain West locales, then how do you expect to grow your fanbase outside of the Rocky Mountains? Perhaps more importantly, what are you saying to current fans when you make a deal that basically shuts them out unless they live in your backyard?

The glass if half full, although it's Diet Rite so that's not exactly a good thing

Hopefully Bronco fans will have some options if the Mountain West deal comes to fruition. Options like these:

  • Bronco Vision. Do you like watching Boise State games on your desktop computer in a 640x320 pixel window? Do you like buffering? Then you, my friend, are in business. Unless The Mtn. contract is truly void of any fan empathy at all, I would imagine that Bronco Vision - Boise State's online subscription service for games - would still be available.
  • ESPN deal. Know this: What ESPN wants, ESPN gets. I would consider the 2016 expiration date of The Mtn.'s contract to be more of a suggestion really once Boise State joins the conference.

Random notes and observations

  • If you live in the Boise area, have disposable income, and desire to purchase channels you will watch with great irregularity, Chadd Cripe has something you need to know. The Mtn., CBS College Sports, and Versus are availalbe from the following carriers:
Versus CBS College Sports The Mtn.
Dish Network x
Cable One x

  • Mountain West teams only play four games on non-Saturdays this season, and no team does it more than once. I know many Bronco fans who would want BSU to join the MWC for this fact alone.
  • ESPN pays the WAC $4 million per year. In contrast, the deal that the ACC signed with ESPN last week is worth $155 million per year. The ACC: 39 times more valuable than the WAC.
  • A lot more basketball games will appear on TV now. I am not sure if that is a good thing.
  • Thanks to reader BSU Guru for FanShotting this story yesterday afternoon.

Your turn

What do you think Boise State should be more concerned about: money or exposure? What are the biggest problems with the MWC contract? What are the biggest benefits? Share your thoughts in the comments.