ed's note: For those of you who have yet to read this FanPost about Boise State and the Mountain West, please read this FanPost. I promoted it to the front page just for you.
It sounded so good at first. We would get more television money. We would have a better than average shot at an automatic BCS berth every year. We would finally be one of the big boys of college football. We would get our own western division consisting of BYU, Air Force, and San Diego State. We could stash the rest of our unimportant sports programs in the WAC. Drinks all around. Forget the geographic illogicality of it. The money we would be making would offset the travel cost. The offer was irresistible. We happily abandoned rational thought and took a leap of faith. At the time it was a great idea.
Times have changed though. In retrospect, we made a desperate, foolhardy decision that could end up jeopardizing the long term success of the football team, the entire athletic department, and the university as a whole. We are so desperate to become one of the big boys of college football that we threw ourselves at the Big East the moment that they offered, despite how asinine the concept was. It's not too late to correct our mistake though. There is one life raft left and we need to jump on it before we go down with the ship.
Let’s rewind the tape seven months. Boise State had just announced that it was going to join the Big East. After a few laughs about how the East Coast was rapidly expanding its borders, everybody became excited about the possibilities. I, myself, was pumped that we were joining the Big East. We were taking another step up the long ladder of college football. We were finally going to join the big boys. Recently though, numerous events have led me to become rather disenfranchised with the whole idea. It is time that we came to our senses and realize that staying in the Mountain West is the best long term option for Boise State.
First off, let’s take a look at some of the reasons that we joined the Big East in the first place:
- Automatic BCS Berth
- Television Revenue
- A Western Division
- Better Opponents
- Olympic Sports to the WAC
- Joining the Country Club
- Stepping Stone
We're also going to look at some of the reasons that gave us pause:
- Travel Costs
- Shaky Long Term Stability
- Long Term Viability
Automatic BCS Berth
It’s just like the BCS to close up shop that moment that we join it. The BCS is done. It’s history. There has been too much backlash and too much push for a playoff for them to go back now. We are going to get four team playoff one way or another. As for the other BCS bowls, who knows, as we have already seen the SEC and the Big 12 sign a deal to play a New Year’s Day game. What this means, though, is that automatic BCS berths are no more, thus invalidating most of the reason that we joined the Big East in the first place.
This seems to be the only viable reason that we are still going to join the Big East. Yet, the reports aren’t that promising. The Big East has already turned down a one billion dollar offer from ESPN and they don’t look to command anything near that amount now. Sure, they got many teams in many markets, but how many people really watch Rutgers in New York or Houston in Texas. I have seen some estimates that project that we make eight to ten million a year as a member of the Big East. The question we have to ask ourselves, is gambling the long term stability of the university really worth eight million a year.
A Western Division
This sounded great in theory but it never materialized. It was one of the hooks that the Big East used to lure us in. Yet, Air Force backed out. BYU was never even able to come to terms. Now all we got is San Diego State as a travel partner and were looking to be in a division with Houston, SMU, Navy, and possibly Central Florida or Memphis. We thought we had it bad in the WAC when we had to go to Louisiana and Hawaii every other year. We now got trips to Texas, Florida, Maryland, and various other East Coast locales at least four or five times a year.
Ah yes, the eternal, everlasting, and never ending debate on strength of schedule. You see, there is no way to combat this bias. You think that we are going to get any more credit from beating Louisville and Rutgers than Fresno and Nevada. We’re not. They’re still going to say that we couldn’t go undefeated playing an SEC schedule. The fact is, the vast majority of the Big East used to be mid-majors. If I’m not mistaken, Rutgers is the only remaining original member of the Big East, and they will be gone the second that the ACC or Big Ten calls. If the Mountain West is the WAC 2.0, then the Big East is the C-USA circa 2003.
Olympic Sports to the WAC
Well, this turned into a right old mess, didn’t it. It was too simple. We take a small step back and house the rest of our sports in Karl’s conference. Except Karl had enough and quit. Then the WAC fell to pieces. While we all laughed at Idaho’s misfortune, we were the ones that were left in an unfortunate position. Now we are groveling at the Big West’s feet in order to let us in. The Big West. A conference that we left twelve years ago in order to join the WAC. They are twiddling their thumbs, happy to watch us sweat it out. If they don’t accept us, the Big Sky of all places, a conference we left twenty years ago to join Division I-A, would be the only viable alternative. We would be taking a colossal step back if we were to join the Big Sky. The biggest reason that it would be so disastrous is how negatively it would affect recruiting. It would be nearly impossible to lure Division I-A talent to a Division I-AA conference. Are we really to sacrifice our entire athletic department so that the football team can make a few extra bucks? We have nationally ranked wrestling and gymnastics teams. When they’re not committing major NCAA violations, the tennis teams are pretty good. Most of all, the basketball team is right on the cusp with Coach Rice. We would lose most of that and our reputation as an athletic department would suffer as a result.
Joining the Country Club
This went the way of the automatic BCS bid. Once that line of distinction is erased, there is nothing that separates the Big East from a mid-major conference. There is the Big 4, along with the ACC, then after that is the mid-majors. It has long been said that the Mountain West in its heyday was better than the Big East ever was. Now that it is no longer an AQ conference, the media is not going to respect us any more for winning the Big East than winning the Mountain West. The Big East has essentially morphed into a mid-major conference.
This is an interesting one. I, and I think most fans, have always considered the Big East as a stepping stone. A short pit stop on the way to bigger and better things. The Big 12 is obviously the goal. Can you really imagine Boise State in the Big East for more than five years? It was never meant to be a long term settling place, but rather a short term rest area. That’s why this decision is shortsighted though. What if that invite from the Big 12 never comes? Are we really going to be in the Big East for the next twenty years? Could we even go back to the Mountain West after we burned so many bridges on the way out? What exactly is the long term plan of joining the Big East? Here’s one last thing to consider. If we were to one day get an invite to the Big 12, it would be for all sports. While football drives the train, would they really accept us when the rest of our sports are back on the Division I-AA level?
This goes back to the stepping stone idea. If we were to have to stay in the Big East for numerous years, would we really be able to weather the travel costs to the East Coast four or five times a year. It’s all fine and dandy to do that for a couple of years to get ahead, but would it really be worth it in the end if we not only had to pay the travel costs to fly the football team across the country, but possibly the travel costs of flying Big West teams around in order to join their conference.
Shaky Long Term Stability
The SEC and ACC only have fourteen teams right now. The Big Ten has twelve. As soon as they expand to sixteen teams, Rutgers, UConn, Louisville, maybe even Cincinnati will be gone. They are already actively lobbying for invites from those leagues. The Big East has been hanging on by a thread for years and those defections would be a death blow. Not to mention that it is already a fractured conference with the relationship between the basketball schools and the football schools tenuous at best. Why would we willingly throw ourselves into that situation?
Long Term Viability
This is the most important reason that staying in the Mountain West is a better long term decision than going to the Big East. Success doesn’t last forever, no matter how much we would like it to. One day Boise State is going to have a mediocre season. Let’s say, hypothetically, that we have a couple mediocre or losing seasons in a row. Maybe we even lose Chris Petersen. The fact is, if Boise State loses it’s relevance in football, it’s loses its value to the Big East. Given how shaky the relationship is in the first place, and how fast the landscape keeps changing in college football, who’s to say that they have to keep us around. Where would we go then? Surely not the Mountain West after burning the bridges on the way out. Not to mention that fact that we are of no value to them either without football relevance. Where to then? Don’t forget that the rest of our athletic department is on the Division I-AA level, in both conference affiliation and competition level. Do we end up with Idaho in the Big Sky? The fact is, if we lose our football relevance, we lose our value to everyone. While the Mountain West would never cut us loose, the Big East might. That’s why having a stable home for all of our sports matters.
So, lets revise the list of the reasons we should join the Big East:
Automatic BCS Berth
- Television Revenue?
A Western Division
- Better Opponents?
Olympic Sports to the WAC Joining the Country Club Stepping Stone
In the end, the better long term decision for Boise State is to bail on the Big East while they still can. It was a great move when they made it, but after all that has transpired since then, it’s time to reconsider. You can’t gamble the entire future of your athletic department and university as a whole just for a couple of extra bucks. Boise State needs to be patient, stick with the Mountain West, and continue to build at the rate they are building and one day the Big 12 will come calling.