There has been a lot of speculation lately around Mountain West Conference teams possibly heading to the Big 12, so I am sort of a Johnny-come-lately to the party with my observations.
Here is the difference though. I am going to get into the weeds on the 15 reasons why Boise State is a better fit into the Big 12 than CSU, but I’m also going to highlight five reasons they are not a better fit. My 15 reasons to consider Boise State revolve around football and are not speculative in one bit.
They are all facts and things the Big 12 will consider. My five reasons to consider Colorado State revolve around…well, not football, for obvious reasons. Nonetheless, those five reasons leaning towards Colorado State may outweigh the other 15 in the Big 12’s decision and have a fair amount of researched speculation.
Before I begin I want to clear something up first. New Mexico, UNLV, and SDSU are not going to the Big 12, they not even in the conversation. I know New Mexico was in the discussion when I was 10 years old back in 1996, but they missed that boat. Air Force would be the first choice if the Falcons wanted to join, but they don’t. So it comes down to Colorado State and Boise State. Here we go.
15 Reasons Boise State is the right choice:
1. Boise State has three BCS/NY6 bowl trophies. More than the rest of the MWC combined. That is actually more than eight of the current 10 members of the Big 12, as well. The Broncos are tied with Texas at three and Oklahoma has won four BCS/NY6 bowls. Two of those Bronco BCS bowl wins are against current Big 12 members
2. All time Boise State’s record is 4-2 against the Big 12. Colorado State is 4-20.
3. Boise State is #3 on the all time winning percentage list behind Notre Dame and Michigan. Colorado State is #105 behind SMU and Wyoming.
4. Boise State has 18 conference titles in its history, including two national championship wins in lower divisions. Colorado State has 15 conference titles, with no national championships in any division.
5. Boise State has had a Heisman finalist. Colorado State has not.
6. Boise State’s Bowl record is 11-5, which equates to the fourth best bowl record in college football. Colorado State’s Bowl record is 7-7 good for #77.
7. Boise State has an established bowl game at their home field. Not many other Big 12 teams have that. CSU does not.
8. In 2015 the average attendance of a Broncos home game was 33,611, the highest in the MWC. The average attendance of a Rams home game was 24,916 which was 5th in the MWC.
9. In the past 15 years BSU has had ten top 25 finishes, of which three were also top ten. CSU has had one top 25 finish in the past 15 years and zero top ten finishes.
10. CSU is 0-5 against BSU.
11. Boise State has 21 players in the NFL. Colorado State has 14.
12. Boise State made $43.9 Million in revenue in 2015. Colorado State made $38.5 Million.
13. Boise State was nationally televised in all 13 of their games last year, with nine being on an ESPN or ESPN2. Colorado State was nationally televised in seven of their 13 games, but the Rams did have two streamed on ESPN3.
14. According to the USA Today College Football Fan Index, a database of America’s most active and engaged fan bases, Boise State was ranked #47 in the country. This was higher than Big 12 members Iowa State, Kansas State, and Kansas. Colorado State was #92.
15. Boise has some established rivalries in the Big 12 with TCU and Oklahoma. They may not have played very often but they were some of the best games either of the three teams played and they were grudge matches. CSU does not have any recognizable rivalries in the Big 12.
Five reasons why Boise State is the wrong choice:
Colorado State is ranked #127 nationally in education by U.S. News and World Report, on a ranking that goes up to 199. Boise State is not ranked, meaning they are at least 200 or worse.
Boise State is ranked #61 in the west region, which isn’t saying much. Interestingly, if Boise could poach University of Idaho’s academics they would be #168 on the national ranking.
On a side note, University of Houston is #187 on the list and Memphis is not ranked, even regionally. If those two schools are some of the top contenders for Big 12 spots, it makes me wonder what part academics will actually play in the Big 12’s decision.
I am adding this begrudgingly because if, and that’s a big if, CSU can pull in the Denver market they have a leg up in city size, but Denver sure isn’t helping them fill their stadium or on their fan index.
Anyway, the metro area of Denver has 2.8 million people, which is significant since it would be one of the largest markets in the Big 12 conference. However, if third-tier rights form into a Big 12 Network then eyeballs don’t matter as much but rather the large number of those who subscribe in the Denver-area and Colorado to said network.
That favors Colorado State whose surrounding area is more populated than Boise and the state of Idaho. Boise State can no doubt draw fans but in third-tier rights it is more about who subscribes and pays for the channel. Look at Rutgers and the Big Ten, the main reason they were invited to that league was to get the Big Ten Network on a lower tier in the New York City area and make money. As we have learned in expansion it is not always the best football program that gets in, unfortunately.
They will have to split with University of Colorado for actual TV ratings which does matter a bit.
With Big 12 teams coming in to Denver to play, I would say they get, at a minimum, 30% of the market, which would still outpace 100% of the Boise Metro which has only 665,000 people.
Now this doesn’t take into account national fan base. Which I have no doubt that Boise has a bigger national following, but how much of that translates to revenue when compared to Denver, I don’t know.
With that in mind, Boise State does not share the Boise market with anyone else other than a small following of BYU, and most of those are dual BSU/BYU fans like most CU and CSU fans would be.
With that being said Boise actually is a bigger market than Manhattan, KS (K-State); Morgantown, WV (UWV); Des Moines, IA (ISU); Lubbock, TX (TTU); or Waco, TX (Baylor).
So I’m not sure what weight the Big 12 will put on markets either. However, the string of small markets currently in the Big 12 may work against Boise State since the Big 12 may be hungry for a large market.
This is probably the deal breaker. Boise is 2,200 miles or a nine hour flight from Morgantown, WV. Fort Collins is 1,500 miles from Morgantown, WV or a five and half hour flight to Denver. Teams in the Big 12 would have to fly an additional three hours to get to Boise.
Some time is made up due to the one hour bus ride they would have to take from Denver to Fort Collins, whereas you can see Albertson’s Stadium from the airport in Boise. Nonetheless, that 2-3 hour addition is significant in time and money.
Both Boise State and Colorado State currently have small stadiums relative to even the smallest Big 12 school, but Colorado State is building a larger stadium.
Currently, Boise State’s Albertsons Stadium can hold 37,000 fans. There has been a plan to expand the stadium to 53,000 since 2010, but concerns over whether seats would be filled allowed for cooler heads to prevail given the $100 Million price tag. So Boise has taken the slow growth approach, increasing by 17,000 seats incrementally over the past 20 years.
Colorado State’s new facility will hold 41,000 fans, which actually surprised me. That would still put them as the smallest stadium in the Big 12 by 9,000 fans and only 4,000 larger than the stadium the Bronco’s currently play at.
A Big 12 contract could generate enough funds to allow for either team to quickly grow their stadiums, but I don’t think the stadium size is that big of a factor between CSU and BSU. Where it matters is comparing the Big 12 stadiums to CSU and BSU, which again, they are both small.
Another factor that has some play is Boise’s blue field, which despite its vehement support in Idaho, is universally hated by members of the Power Five conferences.
Boise State needs a baseball team. Period. This hurts Boise State’s prospects in both the Big 12 and PAC-12 given their storied baseball histories. Boise State could even share a stadium with local minor league team, the Boise Hawks.
Boise State’s basketball has been improving but still is not as good as CSU as a franchise.
Boise does have a nationally recognized gymnastics team. They went 15-0 (the only undefeated team in the country) and they won the MWC last year finishing 15th in the nation. Boise actually has a gymnast competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics, as well.
Boise State also has had a historically strong wrestling team that competes in the PAC-12. Bronco Wrestling has been PAC-12 champs six times since 2000.
Yet none of this will impress the Big 12, whom is mainly looking at football, basketball, and baseball programs. They may consider soccer and volleyball, as well. Boise State has the advantage in only football and soccer with CSU getting the franchise edge in basketball, despite being worse than Boise State over the last three years, as well as the edge in baseball and women’s volleyball.
Fortunately for the Bronco’s, the Big 12 created what I am calling the “Boise State Clause.” In which the Big 12 is open to football only membership. This clearly applies to Boise State and no one else because they don’t want their non-football sports to travel that far to Boise and it allow the conference to accept the fact that Boise has no baseball team.
On paper Boise is clearly the most legitimate choice to boost Big 12 football credibility, which is something that is said to be a significant factor. Does that outweigh the reason’s Boise State doesn’t fit? I don’t think so. However, I also don’t think CSU is a good fit either.
My prediction is that the Big 12 will play it safe and take only two teams in BYU and Houston or Cincinnati. Besides, this expansion can only hurt the Mountain West Conference if any team is taken.