Sometimes it feels like there are just some schools that are continually one step back.
A day late and a dollar short.
Just the thought of realignment can make a college football fan sick. Those who have followed college football the last decade or so have seen monumental shifts in football territories, rivalries torn apart, and schools spending vast amounts of money on hugely important things such as the name on the front of a jersey that their athletes play against. Realignment has been the death knell for three recent conferences as far as football is concerned (Big West, WAC, and the Big East).
All for what? Money mostly. It is usually about money. Like a reflection of any particular society (take your pick) the haves will continue to have, and the have-nots will--well--they will not. If you are not careful, realignment, and the money, can pass you by.
Ironically, even in the Mountain West, this separation of haves and have-nots is extremely glaring.
Boise State will receive $5.3 million from the conference, plus get a little more than $4.1 million for the Broncos’ appearance in the Fiesta Bowl.
$9.4 million. Still a drop in the bucket compared to the mighty SEC. But, still, it is good to be the King. And to actually have an audience that wants to see you play.
But the lowly peon who just happens to be along for the ride? Well. No TV money for you.
UNLV, San Diego State, Air Force: No bonuses
This inequity has caused some grumbles.
"It’s horrible," Rebels athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said. "Everyone wants a piece of the pie. We’re no different. I’m concerned. Others are getting millions of dollars in this bonus system and we get nothing? It’s obviously a red flag. Right now, it’s not working for UNLV. We have to get it changed, because it’s not acceptable."
Mrs. Kunzer-Murphy is doing her job. She is looking out for her school as she is paid to do, and as she should do. But what, exactly, did UNLV achieve in their 2014 campaign to warrant "their" piece of the pie? Contributing to a comical 6-6 Fresno State team making a MWC conference title appearance? Beating Northern Colorado? Being cannon fodder for Arizona and BYU? (Side note: you are welcome, state of Nevada, Boise State did what UNLV and UNR were unable to do and felled the mighty Arizona.)
Ah, to be a few steps below mediocre!
So what is the answer? Is it more equitable distribution of conference money? Probably.
But that is not going to happen for the MWC for a few more years, or at least until the TV contracts are up for renegotiation.
Is it time for congress to step in and actually enact some real, tangible change to threaten the monopoly-like structure that is the CFP (formerly BCS)? Well, yes. But extremely doubtful.
Congress technically has more important things to do than focus on how schools are grouped together for the purposes of athletic competition.
In reality, and to the NCAAs credit, there is real money to be made in Division I / FBS athletics. Apparently even enough to encourage the University of Idaho to continue on in the Sun Belt, and the UI is one of the lowliest of the have-nots.
So how about just joining one of the haves? Because that sounds super-easy.
Wait a second.
There is something to that.
"Just" joining one of the haves. "Just" becoming one of those that look down upon the likes of Boise State from their ivory towers. "Just" catching that carrot on a stick instead of being perpetually one step behind.
A day late and a dollar short.
This is the only logical step for any institution to pursue. If said school does not want to be left in the dust, perpetually picking off the scraps of whatever is left for them, that school has to find a home that brings in the money. To remain relevant in the high-stakes gamble that is collegiate athletics, schools have to find easy roads to cushy paydays and that sweet, sweet television money.
Of course, to be able to jump ship, a school has to be an actual prime candidate to do so.
To which a lot of factors probably should be included, but not limited to: quality of school, quality of teams/sports that the school actually fields, quality of fans, the potential the school has going forward, and--being honest--how much money can that school contribute in the long run. Boise State has a lot to offer in some of these categories, especially potential both athletically AND academically. And not just in football. Boise State has been coming up in basketball, women's gymnastics, wrestling, women's swimming and diving, and men's tennis.
With being a prime candidate also comes right timing. Boise State fans know the pain of "missing it by that much!" Making the jump from Division I-AA to Division I-A and into the loving arms of the Big West and only being a member for five years.
Then there was leaving for the greener pastures of the WAC! Of course, that invite came right after the MWC split off. The WAC needed new members to fill the gaping void the likes of UNLV, AFA, and CSU callously created (the fact that Boise State has caught up, and surpassed, these institutions' teams is not lost).
A few years later and conference realignment rears its ugly head again. But this time it is:
BOISE STATE TO THE MWC!
A conference with TCU, Utah, and BYU! Add Boise State to that lineup and the MWC would, indeed, rival the Big East (at minimum) and the ACC (at the time) as far as football superiority is concerned. While not Pac-10 level prestige, the football portion (and definitely the basketball portion) would have fantastic bonafides and be quite legitimate. This was what Boise State was waiting for. A regional conference with great opponents and the ability to shatter the glass ceiling of football inferiority!
Then, as is always seems to be the case, things do not quite work out in Boise State's favor in regards to realignment. Utah to the (eventual) Pac-12. TCU to the Big XII (via Big East). BYU going independent (but Boise State signs long-term deal to play home-home series, so this works out). At least Boise State tried to leverage something with the Big East / AAC, but that did not happen.
Most likely for the better.
Realistically, how ridiculous is the notion of Boise State and San Diego State going cross-country for a conference game? Very. So much so Idaho begged for the same set up in the Sun Belt.
So Boise State stays put. In the Mountain West. With the WAC 2.0.
Ah well. This is a common story that always seems to be rehashed with different names. Same outcome.
A day late and a dollar short.
Could be worse.
The MWC is the strongest Group of Five conference.
Boise State especially benefiting from the strength of the Mountain Division. Without the likes of Utah State and Colorado State, and their countless football achievements, Boise State would not be where it is at today. In fact one could argue that were it not for Utah State not being awful, and only losing to Auburn by four points that one year quite a few years ago, Boise State would not have not had the fortitude to severely beat Utah State 50-19 during the 2014 season. And Colorado State accomplishing just enough throughout the 2014 season to say, with much gusto, that they were actually the best team in the Mountain Division. Losing to Boise State notwithstanding. Oh, and also losing to Air Force (but who really counts losses to Air Force anyway?).
Then someone proposes an idea: if the Big XII comes calling, do not go.
That is interesting.
If the Big XII, in its quest to not become the Big West, or the WAC, or the Big East (in football), tries to poach the better teams from the Group of Five those schools should NOT go?
Just as it's wise not to marry the first girl who has a crush on you in high school, it would be wise for these schools to rethink joining the BigXII should it be the first Power 5 conference that makes an offer. Would six figures annually be a nice addition at UC? Sure. But the $7.6 million annual share from the Big Ten Network would be a whole lot nicer.
Oh. Is that all? Just post up at the bar and wait for that better offer to come along? Then snatch that pretty little thing up faster than David Carradine snatching the pebble from his sensei.
Makes sense. Pretty simple. Except for the case of Boise State.
Because the west is, well, the west and the options for "big money" conferences are pretty limited. As it stands, there are only two realistic options: Pac-12 and the Big XII.
That is it.
It is basically a 100% guarantee that the B1G, SEC, and the ACC will not be extending Boise State an offer. And this makes sense. Because they do not have to (and why would they want to?). We can already write this down in stone. One of the biggest reasons would have to be geography.
Boise is 1,179 miles from the nearest B1G school, Nebraska.
Boise to Columbia, Missouri is almost 1,500 miles.
Boise to Louisville is just a 1,878 jaunt. (Not going to count Notre Dame because no way are they joining a conference unless the NCAA forces them.)
The Pac-12 is not clinging for life. They are a solid group of schools that will continue to rake in the money.
That leaves the Big XII.
If the Big XII were to invite Boise State, the Broncos should accept.
You know why? Money. $25.2 million per school. Upon last check, $25.2 million was greater than Boise State's lion's share from the MWC at $9.4 million. About $16 million more.
And if the Pac-12 were to come calling for Boise State, even though Boise State committed to the Big XII? Like a football commit that finally got that offer he wanted, Boise State would bolt. Did it before, nothing stopping them from doing it again (unless something fiscally prevented it, but there is always ways around that).
Sitting and waiting for the "better" offer sounds easy enough. But like Fresno and UNR did to the WAC, once that opportunity comes up, gentleman's agreements will be tossed to the wayside.
There are no guarantees in the cut-throat game of realignment. If Boise State does not take the opportunity, someone else will.
And Boise State will be left.
A day late, and a dollar short.