Boise State stays with Mountain West; Big East dead?

Boise State rejoined a conference it never really left. The Mountain West restructured a restructured deal with CBS. The Big East is dead in football, but you already knew that.

Oh, and Happy New Year, Mike Aresco.

While you were icing down the New Year's Eve champagne, the latest round of conference realignment popped. Sort of. Boise State announced it was staying in the Mountain West with a press release that was a surprise to some officials close to the deal.

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In other words, in haste to trumpet his "triumph," Boise State president Bob Kustra jumped the gun. Whatever. It was Kustra who made the call to join the Big East (officially on July 1, 2013) against the preferences of his coach Chris Petersen (definitely) and AD Mark Coyle (probably).

In the end, Kustra kind of got what he wanted, which was not to be embarrassed. Boise's home games will be bundled with the Mountain West rights to make more money not only for the school but for the conference. Previously, Boise had been telling folks there were networks interested enough to just buy Boise home games, a la the NBC deal with Notre Dame.

Apparently not, or for not enough money to make it worthwhile. Under the restructured deal of the restructured deal, Boise home games will be sold separately to enhance the package. The revenue will be shared within the conference.

The deal will allow a bonus of up to $500,000 per game for MWC schools that appear on “network” TV defined as ESPN, NBC, Fox and CBS. Guess who will make most of those appearances on the big networks if form holds? Yup, Boise. You weren't supposed to know those figures, according to one official close to the deal, but Boise included them in its press release anyway.

The $500,000 is a huge number for a league that struggles to pay its members $1 million per season in revenue. Remember what I said about Kustra's “triumph.” He had to make this look good politically, a win-win for his school he guided to the Big East without playing a game. Meanwhile, the Broncos will begin its third year in the Mountain West, which now becomes the best conference below the BCS-league level (Pac-12, Big 12, ACC, SEC, Big Ten).

In theory, that means in most years the Mountain West champion will get the automatic playoff berth beginning in 2014. Boise must now hope that Petersen stays if Chip Kelly leaves Oregon for the NFL.

The wobblin', toddlin' Big East was only as good as Boise State's presence. Now the league is looking for its next savior. San Diego State now has a painless out from the Big East. Per its contract, it can leave the conference if there isn't another school in the conference west of the Rockies.

Boise made the right call. It has had trouble deciding from the beginning. On June 30, the school went right up until the midnight deadline before "leaving" the Mountain West for the Big East. If nothing else the decision saves on gas by not flying to three other time zones. The MWC is solid now with 11 teams going forward. One source said that Boise rejoined the MWC as a condition of San Diego State getting an invite. However, another source denied that was the case.

It was made clear the MWC doesn't necessarily need San Diego State, but a 12-team membership makes things more proportionate. And slightly more profitable. The MWC would make less than $1 million per school per year by staging a championship game.

As it stands, the Mountain West's deal is now worth about $9 million annually. The addition of Boise will bump that up incrementally depending on exposures. USA Today reported that Boise had negotiated a 50-50 split with the MWC of all future major bowl revenue (BCS and playoff).

As far as the Big East is concerned, one source said that as long as SMU and Houston are still in the fold, the conference still could get some kind of rights fees. But don't be surprised if one or both schools join the MWC.

“I think the Big East is done,” said a source close to the Boise deal. “How are they not done? They can't get a TV deal done for any revenue. There are schools publicly looking to leave. Big East schools are running from something, not to something. Their most valuable asset is exit fees.”

 
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