A year and a month or so ahead of its scheduled move from the Mountain West to the Big East, Boise State is reportedly having second thoughts about the conference switch, with its current league apparently launching a last-ditch effort to keep the Broncos from leaving. Adding further fuel to the speculative fire, Boise has yet to officially notify the MWC of its intent to withdraw from the conference.
The reasons for Boise reportedly getting cold feet are myriad, chief among them one that has absolutely nothing to do with football, the sole reason for the intended move to the Big East in the first place.
Boise’s departure to the Big East is a football-only move, with the school’s other sports — the lone exception being wrestling, which is remaining in the Pac-12 — expected to be parked in the WAC beginning next year. Given the upheaval in that conference, and valid concerns that league will cease to exist at some point in the not-too-distant future, Boise has enlisted the help of the Big East in finding a more stable home for its other sports. As it turns out, BSU’s also getting a little help from its travel partner.
San Diego State will be heading to the Big East along with Boise in 2013, and the San Diego Union-Tribune writes that the school is looking to help the Broncos find a viable home for its non-football sports. The Aztecs will also become a football-only member of the Big East, but its other sports will be parked in the much stabler Big West. SDSU would like to see Boise’s sports in the Big West, but that conference, with all of its schools currently located in California — Hawaii will join in all sports but football in 2012 — is bucking against adding Boise due to the additional travel costs that would be associated with the move.
SDSU, though, may hold some leverage over its new non-football conference. If the Big West continues to push against adding Boise, and if the Broncos are forced to remain in the MWC — that conference will not allow any school to take its football program and leave its other sports — SDSU will have a choice to make: stay the course and make a solo move to the Big East, or remain in the MWC. And pull its non-football sports from the Big West.
Thus, SDSU could pressure the Big West, whose nine current members include Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara among others, into getting past another set of travel concerns, or else risk losing what would be its top basketball program as well as several high-caliber Olympic sports programs.
Another possibility raised by the Union-Tribune is the WAC reconstituting itself as a non-football-playing conference. With all of the attrition the conference has experienced over the past two years, the WAC will likely be left with two football-playing members in 2013 — New Mexico State and Idaho. The latter is already discussing the option of dropping back down to the Div. 1-AA (FCS) level, leaving the Aggies in football limbo. The conference also recently added the University of Denver, Seattle University and UT-Arlington as non-football members, which means its future membership could consist of anywhere from three to five members, pending which direction current members Idaho and NMSU head.
How viable that conference would be even with Boise’s non-football sports is open for discussion.
Another “weapon” SDSU can hold over the Big West’s head? If Boise decides to remain in the MWC, the terms of SDSU’s agreement with the Big East would allow that school to renege on its easterly move without paying an exit penalty.
“For clarity, neither party shall be obligated hereunder in the event that the conference does not have as a member on (July 1, 2013) at least one football-playing institution that is located west of the Rocky Mountains,” the contract states.
Boise, on the other hand, would be forced to pay a $5 million exit fee if it informs the Big East June 30 or earlier this year that it’s staying in the MWC, and $10 million if it makes the decision on or after that date.