By Brian Murphy
Boise State is scheduled to join the Big East in football on July 1. Since the Broncos announced they were joining the league, it has lost Rutgers and Louisville while adding Temple, Memphis and, Tuesday, Tulane and East Carolina (football-only).
Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco issued the following statement after Louisville's departure.
"We enjoyed having Louisville in the Big East Conference and we wish them well.
"The Big East has anticipated the continuing realignment that is reshaping college athletics and has already made important additions as part of our vision for the future. We will continue moving forward to fulfill that vision, which includes a strong national football conference and a strong and storied basketball conference. Big East teams will continue to compete and succeed at the highest level and, as always, will combine athletic and academic excellence. With schools stretching from coast to coast and in many of the top U.S. media markets, the Big East has become a truly national conference with outstanding young men and women competing across a full range of sports.
"We are committed to a vibrant and dynamic future for the Big East Conference."
Boise State's only response to the moves have been a series of statements from President Bob Kustra reasserting the school's commitment to the Big East.
• “We are in contact with the Big East Conference office and are evaluating the information that has come forward regarding conference realignment the past few days," Kustra said last week.
• "In following up on my statement from earlier this evening and because of a report that Boise State has been talking with the Mountain West, I want to make it clear that Boise State has had no discussions with the Mountain West Conference in the past couple of weeks. We are in constant communication with presidents and athletic directors of the Big East and we intend to strengthen our the conference by adding members who can contribute to a strong conference," Kustra said a few hours after his initial statement.
• "As previously stated, we are committed to the Big East Conference and intend to strengthen our conference with members who can contribute to a strong league," Kustra said last week.
• "Boise State welcomes East Carolina and Tulane to the conference as the Big East solidifies its membership with these additions. The Big East is proactively responding to the national changes in conference affiliations, and Boise State remains committed to building and competing in a strong Big East future," Kustra said Tuesday.
With the loss of Louisville and Rutgers for 2014, this is what the Big East divisions will look like:
West: Boise State, San Diego State, Houston, SMU, Tulane, Memphis
East: Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida, Central Florida, East Carolina, Temple
Note: Navy is scheduled to join the league in 2015.
Among that group, only Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida were in the Big East during the 2011 football season with the rest of the teams coming from the Mountain West (two), Conference USA (six) and Mid-American Conference (one).
The Big East is in the middle of make-or-break television negotiations. The contract was seen as a way to enrich the new conference members, while solidifying the league's place as the sixth-best football league in the country.
College football's new postseason structure will allow for the highest-ranked conference champion from the Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference and Sun Belt to play in one of the six most lucrative bowl games.
So what are the Broncos' options?
• Remain in the Big East: The television contract could still generate more money than the Mountain West deal and give the Broncos greater exposure across the country. The league could still swipe a few teams from the Mountain West. The Big East has BCS AQ status in 2013 — unlike the Mountain West – so the Broncos are likely to play at least one season in the Big East.
• Return to the Mountain West: The league is willing to take Boise State and San Diego State back. It would give the conference 12 members, allowing it to stage a conference championship game and renegotiate its television contract with CBS. The Mountain West could grow even more, taking UTEP and Tulsa from Conference USA in an attempt to weaken that league. (Or it could attempt to grab Houston and SMU from the Big East.) The Broncos would also have to bring its non-football programs back into the Mountain West from the Big West.
• Go independent: BYU signed a television contract with ESPN and has been able to schedule enough attractive games to make independence work. Idaho and New Mexico State are moving to independence next season. The Broncos have always had a good relationship with ESPN and should be able to sign a decent TV deal. Scheduling and bowl agreements could be problems, and coach Chris Petersen has always valued winning conference championship.
The Broncos would have no problem getting games with BYU (already scheduled), Idaho and New Mexico State. But coming up with nine more games could get ugly.
• Join the Big 12 (or Pac-12): If Kustra isn't burning up the phones to both conferences then he is not doing his job. If only it were that easy, however. The Broncos are way down the list of teams the Big 12 would consider and the Pac-12 has given no indication that it wants to expand again. The Broncos' lack of a TV market, its overall athletic program and its academic ranking and reputation are all impediments to a move to either league. The Broncos' main (only?) selling point is a stellar football program that draws ratings and has a (limited) national following.
What do you think? What is the best option for the Broncos and what will they do?