Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby may say expansion is not coming to the Big XII now, but there is much chatter among the conference's coaches and presidents about a change in the future. Long time Kansas State coach Bill Snyder and Oklahoma President David Boren both came out in support of a move to twelve teams. While Snyder favored the move as a return to the 'classic' Big XII, Boren was pessimistic of the conference's future at ten teams, referring to it as 'debilitating'. They are not the only ones bullish on expansion, according to Bowlsby, four or five conference members are in the middle when it comes expansion talks.
So we can pretend conference expansion is definitely not going to happen, or that it won't happen in the foreseeable future, but the truth is college football is at an all-time high. Conference commissioners need to maximize television contracts and other revenue sources now when the market is receptive before the inevitable bottom falls out. And what's one great team to add to any conference's television broadcast?
Boise State's Resume
Football: A+ (compared to other expansion candidates)
There is no question Boise State stands above the rest when talking Group of 5 football programs. There was a moment of apprehension when long time coach Chris Petersen left for Washington after the 2013 season, but his replacement Bryan Harsin promptly led the Broncos to a Mountain West Championship and Fiesta Bowl victory in his first year with the team.
The Broncos have been consistent winners, tallying 55 wins over the past five seasons on the way to three conference championships. More importantly, the Broncos have beaten a myriad of Power 5 teams over the years. Since 2008, the Broncos have accumulated eight victories against Power 5 teams with three of those coming in bowl games. If Harsin's first season is any indication, the Broncos should remain at the top of the Group of 5 for years to come.
Comparison: There are other Group of 5 programs that have had recent success, but none quite to the level of the Broncos. UCF had a program-defining victory against Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl to finish the 2013 season 12-1, but has not been able to consistently beat Power 5 teams. Cincinnati has put together several double-digit win seasons but has not had a signature win like UCF or Boise State. Fresno State and Utah State present formidable opponents in the Mountain West, but have not sustained success like the Broncos. Colorado State is 0-4 all-time against Boise.
Men's Basketball: B
Boise State's Leon Rice may not be as nationally recognized as UNLV's Dave Rice, but he is starting to gain ground. Since taking over the job in 2010, Leon Rice has led the Broncos to a 102-63 record with two NCAA Tournament appearances and a regular season Mountain West title. Rice has built a potent offensive attack with the help of several Australian players that space the floor well for the Broncos. Boise State has ranked among the top teams in the country in Offensive Rating over the past three seasons, never finishing worst than 34th.
Rice will have to replace MW Player of the Year Derrick Marks next season, but may have another POY candidate in Anthony Drmic. Drmic received a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA after missing most of his senior season with an ankle injury. Expect the Broncos to be competitive in the Mountain West for the foreseeable future.
Comparison: Leon Rice has turned Boise State into a formidable opponent for Group of 5 and Power 5 teams alike. If not for some unfortunate seeding, the Broncos may have several NCAA Tourney victories under their belt the past several seasons. Excuses aside, the Broncos have yet to succeed on the highest stage and will need to show they are capable of doing so if they want to compare favorably to other expansion schools like Cincinnati and Memphis.
Women's Basketball: C+
Leon Rice is not the only coach succeeding on the hardwood. Women's Basketball coach Gordy Presnell led the Broncos to an NCAA Tourney berth last season after a stunning run through the Mountain West tournament. The Broncos Mountain West title was the first conference championship in team history. Boise State has been improving in conference play the past couple years, but still needs to prove itself versus tougher opponents. The Broncos have only played two games against Power 5 opponents in the last four seasons and lost both.
Comparison: Boise State has a better record over the past several years compared to Memphis, Cincinnati, and UCF, but does not have to play in the same conference as national champion UCONN. Disparity between the Power 5 and Group of 5 is even more accentuated in Women's Basketball. Although the American Athletic Conference is home to UCONN and South Florida, the rest of the conference is fairly weak and the Mountain West is even weaker. None of the teams rumored for conference expansion will be competitive right away.
Boise State does not add much to the table in terms of Volleyball. The Mountain West is largely a one team race at the top and bottom with constant rotation in between. Since joining the Mountain West, the Broncos have not finished higher than fifth in conference and have little success against Power 5 teams.
Comparison: The Official NCAA RPI placed Boise State at 127th in the country in 2014 behind Colorado State (13), UCF (35), and Memphis (93), but ahead of Cincinnati (159). Boise State would need considerable upgrades to compete in a Power 5 conference.
When the name Boise State comes up in conversation, it almost always brings images of that signature blue turf. Since its inception in 1986, the blue turf has been a trademark for Boise's football success and a big draw for national television audiences; but Boise State's success can be traced to the lesser known facilities. Boise State has invested heavily in auxiliary facilities for their student-athletes over the past five years with standalone facilities for football and basketball. The Bleymaier Football Center, which opened in 2013, houses all the necessary amenities a Power 5 team would need in a massive 77,000 square foot building. As Albertsons Stadium stands now, it is slightly undersized for a Power 5 team with only 36,000 seats, but there is room to expand. Taco Bell Arena provides a spacious 12,000 seats and would be a fine addition to any conference's arena collection.
Comparison: Boise State's mix of first class sport specific facilities with solid sporting venues puts them among the top of Group of 5 schools. UCF's brand-new football stadium is the centerpiece of the school's 'Athletics Village' which features several new or recently renovated facilities. Similar to UCF, Cincinnati has a 'Varsity Village' anchored by a newly renovated stadium. Memphis shares the glistening FedEx Forum with the Memphis Grizzlies, but play in a 1965 relic for football. With added seating to Albertsons Stadium, Boise State's facilities would be on par with other Big XII schools.
TV Market: C+
There really is no way to sugar coat the TV numbers; Boise offers the smallest television market out of any of the possible expansion schools. What Boise State does have an advantage in is the population who owns those TV sets. Although schools like Colorado State and Houston may be in much larger TV markets, it can be argued they do not effectively saturate those markets. Boise State is the biggest show in the state and would draw good numbers, but the Boise market does not provide as many eyes as other possible candidates.
Boise State currently serves 22,000 students making it the largest university in Idaho. It is also located in the largest city in the state with a metro population of 664,000 people. The Alumni Relations website does not release alumni members across states, but a heat map shows alumni are concentrated in the Rocky Mountains and West Coast.
Idaho's distance from the heart of Big XII country makes it an unlikely destination for BIg XII alumni.
Big XII Alumni in Expansion States
Boise, Idaho is not close to the Big XII's geographic footprint. The closest school is Texas Tech in Lubbock, TX, and that is a 1,200 mile/19 hour road trip. Idaho does not fit the Big XII mold, but neither did West Virginia at the time of its invite. If the Big XII wants Boise State, the geographic limitations will prove little reason not to pick up the school.
Comparison: Outside of Colorado State, none of the possible expansion schools are relatively close to a current Big XII member. The one problem for Boise State is the East coast schools provide a travel partner for West Virginia while Boise State would stand alone on the West coast.
Boise State has made monumental strides in its athletic programs the past two decades, leading to higher applications from out-of-state students and higher academic standards, but the school still struggles in major academic metrics. It ranks behind the other schools most often mentioned for expansion in every metric below. The Big XII is not as academically stringent as other Power 5 conferences, but it is a weak spot on Boise State's resume.
|School||US News Rank||Forbes Rank||2014 Endowment Size||2012 Research Spending||University Hospital|
Boise State has done everything right on the field to place itself squarely in the expansion debate. If the Big XII chooses new members based on solely athletics, it would be hard to choose any other school than the Broncos. Unfortunately, the small television market and detachment from the Big XII's other schools makes Boise a hard sell holistically.