When Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson held his news conference yesterday announcing the addition of Utah State and San Jose State Universities to bring the league to 10 members, he also had a message for Boise State and San Diego State: "I think there is room at the table. I don’t want to get into a hypothetical answer," Thompson said, adding that 10 members is two short of a conference championship, but leaving no doubt on which two he would like those to be.
But when pressed about the possibility of Boise State placing only its Olympic sports in the MWC, he pointed out that the MWC bylaws are clear. "Football allows you to play your Olympic sports in the Mountain West," Thompson said
. That door is closed, as it was for both BYU and San Diego State.
Where does that leave San Diego State and Boise State?
San Diego State is almost unaffected by the events regarding both the MWC expansion and the pending demise of the WAC. They have placed their Olympic sports in the more stable Big West Conference so nothing has changed in their position regarding a conference move. In fact, about three weeks ago when rumors began to float that SDSU might pass on the Big East and stay in the MWC, they were quick to shut down any hint that it could happen. “Not true,” San Diego State Athletic Director Jim Sterk said then
. “We’re full steam ahead.”
Boise State on the other hand is in a whole different boat. When they accepted the football-only Big East invite they tried unsuccessfully to get their Olympic sports into both the West Coast and Big West Conferences. Only the Western Athletic Conference was willing to make room for them and they accepted. But now the WAC may not be around much longer with the announced departures of Utah State, San Jose State and several others yesterday. After more than 50 years of as a major conference in American sports it has been reduced to only two football playing teams and by nearly all accounts finished as a football conference, if it survives at all.
The WAC is now down to just 5 teams for 2013: Denver, Seattle, Boise State, New Mexico State, and Idaho. True, they only need two more teams to remain a viable NCAA-recognized basketball conference, but Idaho and New Mexico State are certainly exploring options that could take their programs and move to another conference. You have to think that the others are looking as well. If any of them are successful in finding new homes, the WAC could disappear leaving Boise State in a quandary finding a practical solution for its athletic programs.
What will Boise State do right now in the face of limited options for their Olympic sports? For the next two months, probably nothing you will hear about. But you can bet there are a lot of covert phone calls already being made once again to the WCC, Big West, MWC and other leagues including the Big East officials. But BSU president Bob Kustra will have to be discrete after accepting an invitation to the Big East last December for football-only and rejoining the WAC for everything else, a move that has left the Broncos in a dilemma. They know they might be the only hope left to keep the WAC afloat as a viable conference and they certainly don’t want to be blamed for its sudden demise or the fall of their older brother, the University of Idaho, if the Broncos bale to another conference or go back the MWC. As long as Boise State is in the beleaguered conference, the remaining members still have some hope, albeit very limited options to survive.
But then there is all that lottery money to give up if they don’t join the Big East. Even without the BCS status, both Boise State and San Diego State have to consider the TV revenue--- from about $1.5 million annually in the Mountain West to at least $6.4 million in the Big East. In the end both schools will have to do what is in its best interests, and while San Diego’s path might seem clear, Boise State’s is not.
Right now, Boise State must consider weighing a commitment to both the Big East and the Western Athletic Conferences and the devastating impact those commitments could have on all the other Boise State athletic programs. Officially, Boise State has remained almost noncommittal in the face of all this, but it did not go unnoticed that Boise State's Athletic Director, Mark Coyle, attended MWC meetings down in Arizona this week.
“We continue to closely monitor the changing landscape of college athletics as a result of the latest news on conference realignment,” Coyle also said this week. “During this time of change, we remain committed to making the best long-term decisions for Boise State University.”