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Boise State might be reconsidering move to Big East

by | CBSSports.com College Football Insider
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The Broncos will have to pay a $5 million exit fee if they don't join the Big East before July 1. (US Presswire)  
The Broncos will have to pay a $5 million exit fee if they don't join the Big East before July 1. (US Presswire)  

Boise State is scheduled to join the Big East Conference on July 1, 2013, but there are indications the Broncos are considering remaining in the Mountain West.

An industry source told CBSSports.com that Mountain West representatives met with Boise State officials earlier this week to persuade the Broncos to remain in the MWC. Adding to that possibility is that the Broncos still haven't formally notified the Mountain West they are withdrawing from the league.

CBSSports.com asked Boise State for a comment about the MWC meeting and why the school had not formally withdrawn from the Mountain West. "We are actively monitoring the changing landscape in college athletics and remain committed to making the best long-term decisions for Boise State," a spokesman said.

Technically, Boise State has until June 30 to formally notify the MWC it's leaving, but the other five schools scheduled to join the Big East in 2013 -- San Diego State from the MWC and Houston, Southern Methodist, UCF and Memphis from Conference USA -- all have formally withdrawn from their respective leagues.

The Broncos have signed a contract to join the Big East so they would have to pay a $5 million exit fee if they did not join the Big East before July 1, 2013. If the Broncos leave the Big East on or after July 1, 2013, they must provide 27 months notice and pay a $10 million exit fee.

It's possible some of the topics discussed between the Mountain West and Boise State were to help the school pay the $5 million exit fee to the Big East. The addition of Boise State was a huge get for the Big East's football membership after losing West Virginia and TCU to the Big 12 and also Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC.

Sources told CBSSports.com that the Big East initially wanted Boise State to join the league in 2012 -- to replace West Virginia and guarantee an eighth football playing member -- but the Big East would not pay for the Broncos' $10 million exit fees to leave the Mountain West and move their Olympic sports to the Western Athletic Conference a year earlier than scheduled.

Another reason Boise State couldn't join the Big East early was because the school would not formally withdraw from the MWC, sources told CBSSports.com.

Boise State also could be reconsidering its move to the Big East because of the uncertain future of the WAC, where Boise State is scheduled to place its non-football sports. The WAC has lost several members and could be down to a handful of non-football members and is fighting for survival.

MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said last Friday Boise State could not keep its non-football sports in the Mountain West and move its football program to the Big East, but could remain in the MWC as a full member. The MWC added San Jose State and Utah State, giving the league 10 football members in 2013, but Thompson added "I think there is room [for Boise State and San Diego State] at the table."

Boise State is concerned about the WAC's future and has asked the Big East for help in placing its non-football programs in another league, the Idaho Statesman reported Wednesday.

That same day, Big East interim commissioner Joe Bailey said Boise State and San Diego State are still committed to the Big East.

"Well, my sense is that unless you hear differently, I think that there's full commitment from their standpoint," Bailey said. "You can't there's an expectation market and then there's the reality market. And the reality of it is that those schools have indicated, to my knowledge, to the executive committee and to the other members, that they have a big belief that the Big East is a really good partner for them."

Another reason Boise State could be changing its mind is the uncertainty surrounding the Big East's future without the BCS AQ conference label. The BCS is removing the AQ and non-AQ designations beginning in 2014 and its unknown if the Big East will still receive BCS AQ type revenue or an amount closer to the current non-AQ leagues, such as the Mountain West.

Former Big 12 acting commissioner Chuck Neinas told USA Today Monday that the Big East is no longer a power conference, and consequently, shouldn't be paid like one.

Another unknown is how much the Big East's new media rights deal, which the league starts renegotiating on Sept. 1, will be worth.

Last year the Big East turned down a nine-year, $1.4 billion deal ($155 million per year), which would have been worth about $14.3 million a year to the full members and about $3.2 million to the non-football members.

If the Big East's new deal is worth the same amount per year ($155 million) each school would receive a smaller amount than the deal the league turned down last year because there are now more members. Full members would receive about $11.4 million per year, football-only members Boise State and San Diego State would receive about $8.4 million annually and non-football members about $3 million a year.

Former CBS Sports president Neil Pilson recently told the New York Times he thought the Big East's deal would exceed the $155 million per year deal the league turned down last year. However, industry sources told CBSSports.com that they believe the Big East's new media rights will be worth substantially less than $155 million per year. That's because when the Big East starts negotiating, about $8 billion will have been spent on recent college football deals, so there won't be as much money available.

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