Boise State and the Mountain West Conference entered into an arranged marriage back in 2011. It was rocky from the start, and although it has had its fair share of positive moments, it has never felt like a loving marriage. However, in the past year, things have gone from silently perturbed to vocally angry.
No Love at First Sight
It was a forced fit from the start. Boise State was looking for a better conference than the WAC, and the Mountain West was looking for a replacement team for their recent losses. The Mountain West made Boise State sign a prenup, telling them what they could and could not wear at home. Boise State actually broke off the engagement before the big day when they announced their pursuit of the Big East had worked. The Big East was having its own problems with keeping teams, and it ended up being a short-term fling. The Broncos came crawling back to the Mountain West, which ended up taking them back, although this time it was Boise State making the MWC sign a prenup. That was how the arranged marriage began.
The Honeymoon Period
Once they began playing, both sides played nice and seemed to get along while they were in public. In fact, there was no hint of any trouble or animosity. Boise State won a lot of games and a few conference titles. Plus, one Fiesta Bowl. In return, the Mountain West got a fair amount of attention with each passing year. For several years, life was good for all involved, and happiness ensued. This was basically how the team and the conference imagined things playing out. With conference realignment basically over (aside from that one offseason where the Big12 was entertaining applications), the arrangement was working out.
Lawyers Get Involved
Trouble began when the MWC didn’t advocate for them in the NY6 race. In short, they forgot to make them feel special in public. Then, things really heated up when it was time to renew their vows. Last year, the Moutain West announced their new media rights deal, which included the usual clause of Boise State being able to retain their open marriage and negotiate their home games as a separate package. Shortly after, the conference proclaimed this was the last deal they could allow the special treatment, meaning they would get the same money as everyone else.
The problem? Boise State wasn’t notified of this and found out at the same time as everyone else. Boise State claimed this to be a breach of contract and filed a lawsuit saying so. The Broncos came to collect on their prenup, and after a tense week or two, the Mountain West figured they were in a losing battle and dropped their stance. Boise State followed suit and dropped their lawsuit.
All went back to normal on the surface, but behind closed doors, everything changed. The entire ordeal exposed that neither side was happy with their arrangement anymore, and perhaps they never have been. Divorce seems to be what both sides want, while also knowing it isn’t prudent.
The Bronco’s Side
Why they want to leave:
- More $ is a given.
- They believe the conference isn’t doing enough to advocate for them or any other team regarding exposure or national relevancy.
- They want to see an increase in competition, and other teams have not maintained the same level of consistency.
- They believe their national brand is enough to sustain themselves without the Mountain West.
- The conference has fallen behind the AAC.
Why they will stay
- Lack of another viable option is a given.
- Independence basically means they have nothing to play for with no tie-in for the NY6 (see BYU).
- Also, where do their Olympic sports go even if another conference presented them with a football-only option?
The Conference’s Side
Why they want Boise State to leave
- The other teams are tired of them getting special treatment and all the attention. They believe life will be just as good without them.
- They are in a tricky situation, as they seemingly told some teams they would no longer give Boise State more money in the media deal but have also told Boise State they will.
- Other teams can enjoy awards and conference titles, and everyone can be happy.
Why they want Boise State to stay
- Boise State is their best chance for national relevancy.
- They will lose money in the media deal without them in the conference (either Fox will renegotiate this one or the conference won’t be as marketable in the next agreement).
Where to go from here?
The answer is nowhere. At least not for the foreseeable future.
The relationship has been weathered storms and been stale for a long time, but both sides know there are not better options. The MWC isn’t going to ask Boise State to leave; that would be disastrous. Boise State isn’t going to leave without securing a more attractive option. Independence would also be disastrous, and if the PAC12, Big12, or even the AAC were going to come courting, they would have done so already.
Even though neither side is interested in the relationship any longer, they are stuck with one another. It is no longer a marriage full of promise or hope. It is now one maintained out of convenience. One where they sleep in separate rooms and occasionally come together to share a meal and, on a good night, even watch a movie together. The Mountain West and Boise State need each other more than they want to, and even though both are ready to move on, they are the best thing the other has for the foreseeable future.