Boise State ditching Big East, staying in MWC

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Cue the funeral dirge and warm up the fat lady’s pipes.  The Big East is crumbling… again.

Nearly three weeks ago, seven “basketball school” members of the Big East announced their intention to leave the beleaguered conference.  That crippling blow came in the midst of the league’s negotiations on a new television contract, and called into question whether incoming members like Boise State would get cold feet over a move that promises to fall far short financially what was initially expected.

On the last day of 2012, that question was apparently answered.

According to a report from Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Boise State has decided against becoming a football-only member of the Big East as originally planned and will instead remain a member of the Mountain West.  All of BSU’s sports will remain in the MWC as well, as the non-football programs — with the exception of wrestling — had been slated to move to the Big West.

The move — or non-move, if you will — comes as little surprise.  In mid-November, reports surfaced that Boise State was still in contact with the MWC about staying in the conference, although BSU officials “reaffirmed” their commitment to their future conference a couple of days later.

Even as Boise State never actually became an official member of the Big East, the university will still be required to pay a $10 million exit fee.  McMurphy reports that the MWC is expected to help pay that fee.

Neither the school nor either conference involved has commented on the reported development.

To say that the Big East is once again on life support would be an understatement.  Boise State’s move could also impact San Diego State, which is also scheduled to move from the MWC to the Big East in 2013.  SDSU was BSU’s “travel partner” in their move to the Big East, and there’s little doubt that school is in the process of reevaluating their impending conference relocation.

Unlike Boise State, however, McMurphy reports that SDSU will not be compelled to pay the $10 million exit fee due to BSU’s departure.

Additionally, schools like Houston and SMU, slated to leave Conference USA for the Big East in 2013, could rethink the move based on Boise bolting the listing league.

As it stands now, the Big East will have nine football-playing members in 2013: current members Cincinnati, Temple, UConn and USF as well as incoming (maybe) members Houston, Memphis, SDSU, SMU and UCF.  That number would jump to 11 in 2014 (East Carolina and Tulane) and 12 in 2015 (Navy).

Earlier this year, Louisville and Rutgers announced they were leaving the Big East, the former for the ACC and the latter for the Big Ten.  Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving for the ACC in 2013 as well.

UPDATED 3:21 p.m. ET: In a press release issued shortly after McMurphy’s report, “the Mountain West Conference and Boise State University today jointly announced, effective immediately, Boise State will remain a member of the Mountain West in all sports.”  BSU’s president intimated that the instability of the Big East compared to the relative stability of the MWC was the tipping point in the decision-making process.

“Without question, conference affiliation has been an odyssey for Boise State, with all the unexpected turns and changes that term suggests,” said BSU president Robert Kustra in a statement. “The benefits of geographic footprint, revenue, and national exposure have to be balanced against the changing circumstances of conference realignment.  I am confident that our Mountain West membership is the very best decision for Boise State University, our student-athletes and our incredible fan base.”

“We are very pleased today to announce Boise State University’s continuing membership in the Mountain West Conference,” said MWC commissioner Craig Thompson. “Maintaining the Broncos program as part of the already solid foundation we have established creates a posture of great stability for the Mountain West going forward.  It also enhances the Conference’s competitive and marketplace platforms, positioning us favorably in the evolving FBS landscape.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson frowns upon Group of Five playoff idea

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The chances a team from the Group of Five ever gets selected to play in the College Football Playoff range from slim to none. As such, talk from within the Group of Five has kicked up from time to time, especially over the last year, about a possible Group of Five-only version of the College Football Playoff. The reactions to that idea has been mixed, but add Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson to the group of people who thinks that idea should be tossed aside.

While attending meetings for the College Football Playoff, Benson told reporters he would prefer to see conference champions from the Group of Five (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) receive better bowl bids instead of playing in a minor version of the College Football Playoff.

It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told Brett McMurphy, then of ESPN.com, back in December. “Why not?”

Well, there are a number of reasons. First, not everybody seems to be on board with playing the college football version equivalent of the NIT. Sure, it would be on TV and would get ratings, but the reward at the end of the JV playoff would mean little. Nobody would consider it a national championship. That’s what the FCS is for.

Benson is not alone in his anti-Group of Five playoff stance. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also has been on record saying he is not interested in such a plan, and he oversaw a member from his conference go undefeated last season and play in the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan).

My initial reaction is that’s not something I’m interested in,” Steinbrecher said, according to MLive.com in December. “We’re part of the (College Football Playoff) system, and it’s done a lot of very good things for the Mid-American Conference.”

Without the support from two of the Group of Five commissioners (and you can almost be guaranteed you can add Mike Aresco of the American Athletic Conference to the list given the conference’s push to be considered a power conference), this idea is pretty much dead on arrival.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

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After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

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After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

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When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.