Enjoy Boise State now, because a new world is coming

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist

The assumption is not an unfair one. If Boise State beats Virginia Tech on Monday night, they have a huge leg up on the field for the BCS Championship. If there is ever a lasting benefit to being a member of the Western Athletic Conference, this is it.

But this isn't the end of college football as we know it, because like baseball, college football survives the best efforts of those who run it to destroy it. And, as hard as this is to believe given the industry's reluctance to embrace a playoff system (driven as it is by the fact that thousands of accountants hired by the industry have penciled out that the current system makes more money), it is about to be fixed in that time-honored American way.


Boise is leaving the WAC to join the Mountain West, one of the dominoes that created this summer of discontent in college sports. Beyond providing the last shreds of evidence that these are not schools but corporations, the fiendish shuffle of power has even more efficiently narrowed the opportunities for the next Boise State.

And within two years, there won't be any Boise States. There will be five mega-conferences, and there will be Division 1-AA, and there won't be anything in the middle.

In other words, enjoy Boise State. It almost surely will be the last time the little guy gets his crack at the big one.

You see, the big'uns already have begun swallowing up the little ones, and nibbling at one of their fellow big'uns. Nobody who is paying attention likes the Big XII's chances to live even five more years, because they've already lost two schools (Nebraska and Colorado) and aren't likely to hold its Texas/Oklahoma center.

BYU has been playing the leverage game with the Mountain West, the WAC and even the West Coast Conference, which doesn't even have football. Utah left the Mountain West to go to the Pac-10, which wanted three of the Texas schools and both big Oklahoma operations far more. Boise, Fresno State and Nevada left the WAC for the Mountain West, and Fresno and Nevada are essentially being sued by the conference they're currently in to buy their way into the conference they want. Negotiations to trade Louisiana Tech (WAC) and UTEP (Conference USA) have apparently been ongoing.

And you know they're not done. Superb reporting work out of Omaha, Austin and Salt Lake City have filled out much of the schmoozing and arm-twisting that has went on with the changes we already have, and there will be more as the changes continue.

Ultimately, you can be safe in thinking the SEC, Big 10, Pac 10, ACC and Mountain West are going to become 16-team mega-conferences one way or another. That leaves 40 schools that won't make the new cut when it comes, and with a few arguments here and there, you can pretty much figure which ones those are. Hint: The MAC and Sun Belt can't like their chances in the new world order.

But Boise State? Boise is in, because its established as bonafide even before this year, and because it got ahead of the real blood-letting. And as for this year ... well, if it helps, consider this the reward for all the years they swam against the tide.

Yes, their season is largely perceived as two games -- Virginia Tech on Thursday and Oregon State three weeks and change later. And yes, other schools have much tougher schedules. And yes, life isn't fair when you work inside a cartel.

But this will be the last true anomaly, we assure you. Conference-eating has begun, and once started, the process only speeds up as the panic sets in. For proof of that phenomenon, the Big 10's expansion plans were sped up by at least a year when Nebraska tarted up and made itself available.

So curse not Boise State. Consider it the last frantic statement from a soon-to-be-bygone era. What comes next won't be nearly as fun, but then again, Darwin wasn't that fun of a guy, either.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.


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