By Brian Murphy
Statement from Idaho AD Rob Spear
"It is certainly good for the WAC and ensures Idaho and BSU will be competing annually in all sports other than football. That is a positive for the State of Idaho."
Statements from Mountain West
Statement from Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson: "The Mountain West Conference Board of Directors has been conducting frequent meetings and conference calls over the last 45 days in anticipation of continuing conference realignment transpiring nationally. The Board has a regularly-scheduled winter meeting which begins this weekend during which it will continue discussion of membership options in-person."
Statement from Chair of the MW Board of Directors and UNLV President Neal Smatresk: “I have been in constant communication with my fellow Mountain West presidents over the past several weeks as the landscape of intercollegiate athletics continues to evolve. Those conversations are ongoing as we finalize our strategic plan, and the respective presidents are encouraged by the possibilities.
“The previously announced cooperative arrangement with Conference USA maintains great relevance today and the presidents of each institution have been engaged in a thorough exploration of the scope of that relationship going forward. The individual members in both leagues are seriously discussing the formation of a new conference. We remain confident in a future which will provide long-term stability for our member institutions and a platform upon which to continue the success which has become our collective trademark.”
Statement from Air Force Lt. Gen. Mike Gould: “The Air Force Academy will remain in the Mountain West Conference, where we have been since 1998-99 when we were a co-founding member of the conference. I made this decision based on what’s best for our cadet-athletes and the institution as a whole. This decision was made based on things like regional rivalries (like just playing our 50th football game against Colorado State Univ.), loyalties to the conference, travel time for our cadet athletes and fans, school time missed, and travel costs. I feel the Academy is a key and pivotal member of the Mountain West, and think we can do a lot to help this conference continue its tradition of excellence. We of course continue to watch the changes happening not only in the Mountain West, but within NCAA sports around the country. As for now, ‘We’re ALL IN’ the Mountain West Conference.”
Statement from Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky: "Given the underlying commercial elements and the current BCS structure, moving conferences seems to be a regular occurrence in this present culture. We have developed some great relationships with those leaving us and appreciate the contributions they have made to our conference. We trust they made their decision after careful and thoughtful analysis and with the necessary assurances and wish them well.”
“We are excited about the progress we are making with our friends from the Mountain West and look forward to completing our future membership initiatives together. Ultimately, our institutions will seek to align with other institutions that share our values for excellence in higher education and intercollegiate athletics, and possess the greatest potential for future growth and success. There is no timetable for this process, but we have a solid group of presidents that will be focused on maximizing this opportunity in a thoughtful and expedient manner.”
Boise State joins Big East in football, WAC in other sports
Boise State’s highly ranked football program officially accepted an invitation from the Big East on Wednesday, ending months of speculation about the Broncos’ future conference plans. The rest of Boise State’s programs are going to the Western Athletic Conference, which was the Broncos’ home from 2001 to 2011.
The conference moves will take effect July 1, 2013.
“Today’s announcement represents another significant step forward in the evolution of the Bronco football program and in the incredible growth of Boise State University. The move to the Big East Conference makes a powerful statement about our vision for the future of the football program, and more than ever will showcase the Broncos in the national spotlight. We also look forward to rekindling some outstanding rivalries in the WAC, and continuing the development of our basketball programs and other sports," Boise State President Bob Kustra said.
Said football coach Chris Petersen: “Growing our football program is something that we are always working on, and joining the Big East Conference will help us do just that. We will be facing outstanding competition from around the country and it will expand our national brand into new regions. Our fans will get to see new and exciting teams visit Bronco Stadium and it also will allow them to travel to new destinations. This move is going to be great for our program.”
Boise State joined the Mountain West in July but the league lost Utah, BYU and TCU in quick succession, giving the Broncos reason to again search for a new conference, particularly for its football program.
Boise State and San Diego State are joining the Big East for football-only and Houston, SMU and Central Florida (UCF) are joining as all-sport members, the league announced during a Wednesday afternoon teleconference.
The rebuilding Big East hopes the addition of five new members allows it to remain a Bowl Championship Series automatic-qualifying conference and attract a large television contract next year. Big East members Pittsburgh and Syracuse have accepted invitations to join the ACC and West Virginia is headed to the Big 12. TCU, which joined the Big East but never played in the league, is going to the Big 12 as well.
“Over the last 32 years, the Big East Conference has constantly evolved along with the landscape of college athletics,” said Big East Commissioner John Marinatto. “The inclusion of these five great Universities, which bring a unique blend of premier academics, top markets, strong athletics brands and outstanding competitive quality, marks the beginning of a new chapter in that evolution. We are proud to welcome these schools to the Big East family.
“Much like the conference as a whole, the Big East name — though derived 32 years ago based on the geography of our founding members — has evolved into a highly respected brand that transcends borders, boundaries or regions. It’s national. Our membership makeup is now reflective of that.”
Marinatto has been working for several months to push membership to 12 teams for football, designed to give the conference an East-West division split and allow the league to stage a conference championship game.
The remaining Big East members are Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida.
Once the Big East football membership reaches 12 schools, the conference will divide into two divisions, with the division champions playing in a conference championship game.
“I think what John Marinatto just did, he should get a substantial raise for what he just accomplished. Getting Boise State. Getting Houston, SMU,” Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino said. “I think that is as good of a job for a commissioner with his back against the wall as I’ve seen since I’ve been in athletics. The teams you lost aren’t as good in football as the teams you’re bringing in.”
Boise State went 11-1 and finished No. 7 in the final BCS standings. The Broncos have been to two BCS bowl games in the last six seasons. Houston (12-1) nearly made its first BCS bowl appearance this season, but a loss in the Conference USA title game derailed the Cougars’ chances.
Boise State and San Diego State are leaving the Mountain West. Houston, SMU and Central Florida are leaving Conference USA. Neither league is a BCS AQ league.
“We would be OK with anything that allows us to get into a BCS conference,” San Diego State football coach Rocky Long said Tuesday. “It gives your football program an advantage. It gives your whole athletic department an advantage — more resources, added national exposure. It benefits everybody in the department.”
The other benefit is increased television revenue. The Mountain West will distribute roughly $1.2 million to its members next season. The Big East’s new television contract could be worth more than $6 million per year for each football member — and, perhaps, a lot more.
"Our new conference affiliations are about opportunities to expand our national outreach, develop new rivalries and destinations, and take our programs to a higher level. We are genuinely excited for our student-athletes and coaches to compete in the Big East and WAC beginning in 2013," new Athletic Director Mark Coyle said.
Said Interim Athletic Director Curt Apsey: "After a substantial amount of due diligence and extensive discussions with a wide variety of stakeholders, we have achieved the primary objectives that were laid out at the beginning of this process. Today’s announcement is the end result of a great deal of hard work and planning by many people at Boise State, and we are very excited about the opportunities that these affiliations will provide."
The Idaho State Board of Education gave Boise State President Bob Kustra authority to make the move in early November, but obstacles have delayed the move.
The Big East first approached Air Force about joining as Boise State’s Western partner. The Falcons have not made a final decision, but are reportedly leaning toward remaining in the Mountain West. The Big East also negotiated with BYU to join the revamped league, but those discussions broke down two weeks ago.
The conference then turned to San Diego State.
Kustra and the state board indicated that a western partner was essential to Boise State joining the league.
Kustra told the state board that joining the Big East in football would cost an additional $200,000 to $300,000 in travel expenses.
Western Athletic Conference membership for 2013 is expected to include Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State, plus newcomers Denver, Seattle, Texas State, UT-Arlington and UT-San Antonio.
The Big East Conference has agreed to facilitate discussions regarding the scheduling of non-conference basketball games with current Big East schools.
“Conference realignment is continuously changing the landscape of college athletics, but it doesn’t change what we are trying to accomplish," men's basketball coach Leon Rice said. "We’re excited about the progress we’re making with this team, and we will continue to work toward building a program that can be competitive on a national level."
Said women's basketball coach Gordy Presnell:“We saw great success in the Western Athletic Conference, winning two conference championships in our last six years. We also developed rivalries with programs in the league, and it will be nice to restore them.”
Boise State’s wrestling team will continue to compete in the Pac-12 Conference.
The Big East will host a media teleconference at 3 p.m. (Mountain time) to address conference membership, the league announced Wednesday morning. Boise State President Bob Kustra is among the participants listed on the call.
Also on the call: Big East Commissioner John Marinatto, South Florida President and CEO of the Big East Executive Committee Judy Genshaft and the presidents/chancellors of Central Florida, Houston, San Diego State and SMU.
The Western Athletic Conference will hold a teleconference at 4:30 p.m. Mountain to address conference realignment.
Boise State will hold a press conference after the Big East teleconference, the school announced.
We will have complete coverage throughout the day at IdahoStatesman.com and in Thursday's editions of the Idaho Statesman.
Boise State and San Diego State will join as football-only members, while Houston, SMU and Central Florida will become full members as the rebuilding Big East looks to create stability in its membership and enhance its profile in advance of next year's television negotiations.
• We should get some answers today to these questions about Boise State's move to the Big East, including where the Broncos' other sports teams will end up. The Western Athletic Conference is the most likely destination.
But the ultimate verdict on Boise State's move will come next year when the BCS's new contract is written and the Big East's new television contract is negotiated.
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