Boise State’s plan to leave the Mountain West and join the Big East in football in 2013 could be in jeopardy thanks to a rash of conference expansions now taking place by Conference USA, the Mountain West and even the once lowly Sun Belt Conference -- themselves victims of Big East expansion.
All of this movement could prove costly to Boise State, who accepted a Big East invite for football only and moved their remaining sports programs to the Western Athletic Conference. That conference has been crippled and now appears to be on life support as defections seem to be announced almost daily. The Sun Belt is scheduled to hold a news conference this morning reportedly to announce the addition of Texas State in 2013, which was admitted to the WAC only last season.
This is coupled with recent news that other WAC defections could leave the WAC with just five members: Idaho, New Mexico State, Denver, Seattle and Boise State – now it begs the question if the WAC will even survive. In the end Boise State could be faced with three options.
First, the WAC can survive as a basketball-only conference by adding the likes of Utah Valley State, Cal State Bakersfield, UC-San Diego, New Orleans, Omaha, Chicago, etc. There are quite a few non-football schools available that are looking to move up to Division I action. Under that scenario, both Idaho and New Mexico State could also remain as members with their football programs either going away or playing in another conference such as the Sun Belt (football-only).
Second, the Broncos could seek to find another conference to house its hoops and Olympic sports. That option is not as attractive or as easy as it seems. Unfortunately for Boise State, the Big East no longer needs them to survive so a last minute full-conference invite is probably out of the question. The Broncos are simply not that attractive for a higher profile conference. San Diego State was invited to the Big West because of its location and accomplishments, something that's not an option in that league for Boise State right now. The WCC also turned down Boise State, preferring to stick with only private schools. And the Mountain West won't accept non-football members. That drops the options to consider the possibility of having to return to the Big Sky Conference, a less prestigious conference and one that they left behind in 1996.
Third, Boise State could remain in the Mountain West Conference which is certainly within the realm of possibilities in the wake of the recent expansion events. The question might come down to the Big East's TV contract and if the money is big enough that the school would be willing to throw their other sports under the bus to get it. It could be that the money generated would not be large enough to justify leaving the Mountain West Conference, especially if the MWC can negotiate a better TV deal of its own.
The possible demise of the WAC has certainly complicated Boise State's future prospects. If the WAC survives as a conference, then it is likely it will be full steam ahead into the Big East. But if the conference ceases to exist, the school will have some serious soul-searching to do in charting another course for its future. Like Jeff Eisenberg points out over at Yahoo! Sports, the school administrators will have to decide whether joining the Big East for football is worth jeopardizing the progress the Broncos have made in their other sports.