Boise State joined the Mountain West Conference in 2011 after spending nine seasons and making a name for itself in the WAC. Coach Bryan Harsin reportedly urged leadership within the school to end that relationship recently.
BoiseDev, in partnership with the Idaho Press, received emails from school officials indicating that back on Sept. 11, Harsin emailed former athletic director Curt Apsey and university president Marlene Tromp about a conference call that the Mountain West had recently held regarding the future of the season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mountain West had canceled its fall season at the time of the emails, and didn't announce a revised fall schedule until Sept. 24.
"That leads into the conference conversation that we need to address again and for as long as it takes to put a plan together to move," Harsin allegedly wrote. "NOW is the time! The longer it takes the longer we stay in the MW. I am 1000% convinced we need to make this move for football and if that means other sports too in the long run it will be what's best for this University. I understand there are risks and budgets and travel costs that's all real to me. I also know that's exactly why Boise State is the program it is today because we took risks necessary to grow our program."
Of course, if the move is for football, common sense suggests that Harsin hopes to get his program into a Power Five conference. That's where things get complicated. Two days before Harsin sent that email, Apsey emailed Harsin and Tromp indicating that he had already engaged in conversations with the commissioner of the Big West Conference and an unnamed conference that the Idaho Press suggests is the West Coast Conference. Neither of those conferences sponsor football.
Harsin referenced the school's football history in the Sept. 11 email to Apsey and Tromp.
"Let me put it like this, 2006 fiesta bowl 2 point play," he wrote. "Put the ball behind our back and stand there like a statue and take the biggest risk in the most critical moment of the game or run up the middle and stay conservative. I know which one I'd pick and glad I did because it changed everything. TIME FOR STATUE LEFT PART 2! Have a great weekend and Bleed Blue!"
What's Harsin's goal here? It's fair to assume other sports would move to the WCC or Big West while the football program blazes its own path as either a member of a new, larger conference or an independent. Meanwhile, there has been nothing to suggest that any of the Power Five conferences are looking to expand, and there isn't a Group of Five conference that makes geographic sense.
It's important to note that this isn't the first indication that the relationship between Boise State and the Mountain West is in trouble. The school filed a lawsuit against the conference regarding its media rights bonus which was dropped in February.