January 24, 2011
Boise State and the new MWAC
Utah was the first to move, accepting a no-brainer invitation to join the prestigious Pac-10 conference. Bronco fans took this news with disdain, but a Utah-less MWC was still a tremendous upgrade from the WAC. Then, BYU's plan to scuttle the MWC may have, as a result, forced Boise back to the WAC, but that was preempted by Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson. The MWC played hardball, inviting Fresno and Nevada, called BYU's bluff, and subsequently saw the Cougars find Plan B and walk out on the MWC. Any chance at AQ status was now out the door and the MWC was beginning to look more and more like the old WAC. The third phase of Bronco heartache saw TCU, fresh off its Rose Bowl victory, accept an invitation to join the Big East. In return, the MWC invited Hawaii, yet another former WAC colleague of the Broncos.
The final nail in the coffin of Boise's expansion plan was floated today. Reports have been circulating that the MWC has extended membership offers to both Utah State and San Jose State. If this is true, the number of former WAC members not named Boise would rise to five. Boise State would have only SIX new conference members beginning in 2012. The term WAC-lite is not far from reality.
But, is this really that bad for Boise State and its fans? The Broncos used the last half of the 21st century's first decade to become an ESPN darling. As the only marketable team (outside of a one-year Hawaii) in the WAC, ESPN went with the Broncos early and often for weekday showcases. As a result, the Broncos and their blue turf became a staple of college football. Boise did not, and should not see itself as better than those weekday games. It is, in all honesty, how they came to be. A BAD deal with ESPN is better than a good deal with Comcast. (See The MTN, et al.)
With Conference USA moving to FOX, Craig Thompson has been coy regarding new television rights. For the first time, Thompson did not assure anyone of his intention to renew his conference's agreement with Comcast. Everyone knows that ESPN is going to call. And Craig Thompson and the MWC will be in a good position to pick up where the Zombie WAC has left off. The WAC has no marketability and the MWC should secure a contract to play weekday games on ESPN. Too bad Thompson and Co thought they were beneath weekday broadcast way-back-when... But that is another argument for another day and time.
The Broncos went to 2 BCS games, garnered national credibility, and used the time slot to benefit their program in general. There is no doubt Boise would remain ESPN's go-to team in a new MWC/ESPN television agreement. The new MWC is a slight upgrade from the old WAC. No more trips to Las Cruces, Rustin, or Moscow. Air Force is always solid. San Diego State is on the rise and Colorado State went to a bowl game just a few years ago. The revenue stream from a 12-team MWC Championship game and a renegotiated MTN deal with Comcast may also be better than the days of the Old WAC.
Suffice it to say, Boise State fans can certainly be disappointed by what has transpired during the Expansion Crisis of 2010/2011, but there is no need to be in utter disdain. With the WAC disappearing from the Division 1 football landscape, the Sun Belt/MAC/C-USA leagues' inability to deliver an undefeated champion, TCU/Utah in BCS Confernces, and BYU in BCS limbo, the Broncos should be able to continue their yearly BCS noise. Boise State's new MWC wife may not be as beautiful as she was on her wedding day, but she may be useful enough to provide a happy marriage for both partners.