When Craig Thompson announced the new television deal, the biggest surprise wasn’t the fact that ESPN would no longer be televising Boise State games. It was the fact that Thompson said Boise State’s games would no longer be negotiated separately after the new deal expired. It was clear that Thompson had met with representatives from the other universities and they were fed up with Boise State getting “special treatment.” But, how does a deal with no expiration date, expire?
Boise State fans were clearly annoyed with Thompson’s remarks, and Boise State’s lack of a response was puzzling. Well, that changed last Friday night when Boise State finally issued a response stating that they opposed any changes to the agreement they signed when they returned to the conference. See their response below:
ICYMI, Boise State is going to fight the Mountain West over its decision to end the Broncos' separate TV negotiations for its home games when the new contract ends in 2025-26. Has meant an extra $1.8 million/year. pic.twitter.com/3lcr4KnzW3— Dave Southorn (@davesouthorn) January 18, 2020
What does “weighing our options” even mean? Well, let’s take a look at Boise State’s potential options and what seems the most realistic.
Option #1: Do Nothing
I’m going to be honest, this is where I thought this was initially headed. I listened to Curt Apsey on the radio after the new television deal was initially announced, and he had no comment on Thompson’s announcement. As a Boise State fan, I am not going to lie, it was pretty frustrating. I want to make it perfectly clear, if I was not a Boise State alum/fan, I would be livid over the current deal. I get it, Boise State receives more money and more exposure. That makes it hard to catch up.
I also get the argument that Boise State isn’t what it once was. But let’s make it perfectly clear, Boise State is still far and away the most recognizable program in the conference, and any television deal without Boise State would not be worth nearly as much. The only other team that has come close in terms of consistency is San Diego State, and if Boise State leaves, they might just bring the Aztecs with them.
I think the public statement on Friday night pretty much throws this option out the window. I’m guessing Boise State wanted to talk to the Mountain West and understand how/why they are trying to get out of this agreement. After they didn’t hear what they wanted from Craig Thompson, they figured it was time to issue a public statement and move forward with their other options.
Option #2: Legal Action
It doesn’t matter whether you agree with the deal or not, a contract is a contract. It is perfectly clear in the contract that Boise State’s agreement with the Mountain West to negotiate their home television deals separately has no expiration date. Mountain West presidents, athletic directors, coaches, and fans can complain and disagree as much as they want. But, there is no way they can legally get out of this deal.
I think this is posturing by the conference. Are they trying to see if Boise State will cave? It sure appears so. If Boise State decides to fight this, it could get ugly and cost the conference millions of dollars. Could Boise State get voted out of the conference? I guess so, but that appears unlikely. The television deal would have to be renegotiated, and it would cost the conference and its members millions of dollars. I hope it doesn’t happen, because it wouldn’t be good for either side. But, it is certainly possible and maybe even likely at this point.
Option #3: Leave the Mountain West
I’ve seen a number of people say that Boise State has nowhere to go, and I’m not sure I believe that. I think Boise State has a number of options, the first of which being independence. Boise State still draws well on television and could put together a schedule that is comparable to BYU. They could also negotiate their own television deal and probably come away with more than they are getting from the Mountain West. With that being said, I think independence would be a terrible idea. I hate the thought of having nothing to play for. Yes, it is great to have more games against Power 5 opponents, but I don’t want it to happen at the cost of playing for a conference championship.
The second option would be joining the American. I don’t think this is that far-fetched. I’ve seen some people say that Boise State should join as a football only member and see if they can place their Olympic sports in the West Coast Conference. I think it is more likely that Boise State would look to schools like San Diego State and BYU to serve as travel partners, and the AAC could create East and West divisions. Would a division with Boise State, BYU, SDSU, Houston, SMU, and Tulsa be that bad? I don’t think so. It would also allow Boise State to develop an even more meaningful rivalry with BYU, and we could see the Broncos play teams like Memphis and UCF more regularly.
The last option is a bit far-fetched, but it could be an intriguing option for the Group of Five elite: create a “best of the rest” conference. Put together 12-16 Group of Five teams that have a history of success with a new commissioner that is an expert at negotiating television deals. Could they score ten million a year? I think it is possible. With that being said, I don’t think it happens. It would be a risky move and would be extremely difficult to work out the geographical issues.
What I Think Happens: The Mountain West Backs Down
Let’s look at the facts here. Boise State and the Mountain West signed a contract. In that contract, it specifically states that Boise State has the right to negotiate their own home football games. There is no expiration date on that deal. While the conference could theoretically vote the Broncos out, we all know that’s not going to happen. I don’t think Boise State will join the AAC unless they can form a true West division, and that is hard to see at this point.
How do you guys think this is going to play out? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.