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A Question of Value

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Know Your Brand’s Worth

NCAA Football: Mountain West Championship-Hawaii at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since Craig Thompson announced that the new six-year TV deal would be the last in which Boise State was allowed to negotiate their own home game rights for a bonus, the online debate has raged: Are the Broncos worth the extra $1.8 million dollars they take home each year?

Depending on where you look, many fans of other teams in the Mountain West feel that Boise State’s special treatment is unwarranted, and that the conference would be fine (or even better off!) if the Broncos left. Many feel that the halcyon days of 2006-2012 are no more, and Boise State simply isn’t what they were.

While it is true that the last major bowl the Broncos went to was in 2014, there needs to be a deeper look at what they bring to the conference. Is the Boise brand worth the price tag to the conference?

Well, here’s the numbers:

“Wow, that’s a spreadsheet of numbers!” you say. “If only you’d broken out some of the important details into a bar graph!” Well, dear reader, eat chart!

To summarize: the previous spreadsheet and chart both break down the football win/loss statistics for the Mountain West Conference from 2014-2019. These years were chosen because it encompasses the current conference membership (USU and SJSU finally got in on the action in the 2014 football season).

You can draw all kinds of conclusions from the data, but here’s the gist: over the previous six years, Boise State has indisputably been the “flagship” football institution in the Mountain West. While not always in the championship game (damn you, tiebreakers) they are consistently and indisputably the top team in the conference. If you want to win the Mountain West, you must beat Boise State.

The consistency is remarkable. Total wins-wise, only SDSU can sniff the rarefied air the Broncos have inhabited, with 8 fewer total wins in 6 years. After the Aztecs, it drops off hard to Air Force and 15 fewer total wins in 6 years...and then Utah State with 21(!) fewer wins!

Our fancy bar chart breaks out W/L averages overall, and in-conference. On average, Boise State expects to go about 11-2, 7-1 in conference. That’s amazing, but also apparently grounds for everyone to start calling for Harsin’s head for not keeping up with the high standards established previously? Whatever.

“That’s all well and good, but this rights deal includes basketball!” you protest. “Surely Boise State can’t even carry the jockstrap of the storied programs in the Mountain West!”

Ok, first of all, who wants to carry a jockstrap? Gross. Secondly, MORE STATS, STAT!

(the following do not include the current 2019-20 season)

Well, would ya look at that...and yes, we have another bar chart. Hold your horses.

What you’re seeing here is the data manifestation of all your disrespect to Leon Rice, Miracle Worker. In a conference that has the storied likes of SDSU, UNLV, UNM, and, yes, Nevada-Reno, he’s managed to scrap it out to be in the top 3 for overall win percentage over the last six seasons.

(that weird Fresno State thing is a stat blip wherein they technically have a better Conference Win%, but have lost more games overall)

Say what you will about strength of schedule and tourney performance, Leon’s boys are no slouches. It’s not the out-and-out dominance of the football team, but it’s a definite value-add in the upper echelon of the conference.

Overall, conference parity may be hurting more than helping, what with the dwindling amount of teams sent to the big dance in recent years, but that’s not the point of this article. Also holy crap SJSU sucks...

All that lead up to say this:

Any fan who tells you the Mountain West would be “just fine” without Boise State should immediately be given a breathalyzer and put into concussion protocol.

You can bicker about the relative fairness of Boise State receiving their (contractually guaranteed) larger slice of the money pie, but they knew their own value. When the Big East started to blow up, the Mountain West paid up to get the moneymaker back.

Since then, the rest of the conference got a little frisky, so Craig Thompson tried to pull a fast one, and Dr. Tromp called his bluff. Where it goes from here remains to be seen, but Boise State knows the value of their brand.

(All data for this article was obtained from the Mountain West Conference’s publicly available stats pages on their website, and was compiled by me. A spreadsheet can be made available upon request.)