By Brian Murphy
Boise State has reached two Bowl Championship Series games since head coach Chris Petersen took over the football program in 2006, bringing the Broncos fame, acclaim and some extra money.
A third BCS game — or an appearance in the BCS' successor — could bring a whole lot more money.
As part of its agreement to remain an all-sports member of the Mountain West (story here), Boise State helped change the league's distribution for participating teams in the top-end of college football's bowl structure.
"The MWC is implementing a system whereby any member whose football performance results in payments from the BCS to the conference will share directly in those revenues on a 50/50 basis with the conference, thus enjoying a direct reward for their team's success," Boise State President Bob Kustra said in a statement released Monday.
The Mountain West confirmed the change.
College football is moving to a new four-team playoff system in 2014. A group of six bowl games will replace the current BCS format and perhaps more than triple the amount of money than the current system.
The highest-ranked conference champion from one of the so-called "Group of Five" conferences (Mountain West, Big East, Conference USA, Sun Belt, MAC) is assured of a spot in one of the six games.
Though the revenue distribution has not been finalized an appearance could be worth up to $30 million. The Big Ten and Pac-12 (Rose Bowl) and Big 12 and SEC (Sugar Bowl) will receive $45 million per year. The ACC (Orange Bowl) will get more than $28 million per year.
The Rose, Sugar and Orange bowls will serve as "contract" bowls with its conference affiliations locked up. The Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-Fil-A (Atlanta) games are expected to be "access" bowls with open spots, including one for the highest-ranked "Group of Five" champion.
Let's assume the Mountain West is paid $20 million for sending a team to one of the games. The participating team, be it Boise State or any other Mountain West member, would get $10 million. Each of the other teams would split the remaining $10 million.
Hawaii is the only other current member of the Mountain West to reach a BCS game. Boise State played in the Fiesta Bowl in 2007 and 2010, winning both games.
The Broncos earned approximately $3 million for the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. The Broncos earned about $4.5 million for its 2007 Fiesta Bowl appearance and had $1.5 million in expenses for the game.
Winding road for Boise State
Perhaps more than any other school playing major college football, Boise State has seen its future changed — time and again — by the forces of realignment. The Broncos moved from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West in July 2011. Six months later, the Broncos announced their intention to join the Big East in football.
Boise State re-affirmed that commitment in June, submitting paperwork to leave the Mountain West — only at the very last minute and, after the Big East had paved the way for the Broncos’ other programs to join the Big West.
Now, six months later and with the Big East hit by major defections, the Broncos have changed course again, opting to remain in the more stable and geographically condensed Mountain West.
It is only because of the school’s powerhouse football program — 84-8 in seven seasons under head coach Chris Petersen — that the Broncos have options. And Kustra used the Broncos’ strong spot to get a deal from the Mountain West, which is seeking to establish itself as the No. 6 football conference in the country and lay claim to the pole position for an annual spot in college football’s new postseason structure.
“As I’ve stated many times, I have had the utmost trust that the university would make the right decision in what is best for Bronco football and all our sports at Boise State,” Petersen said in a statement. “This innovative proposal to get football the maximum exposure on national television will be a tremendous boost to our program as we continue to grow the Bronco brand.”
Other changes in the agreement
• Boise State will be allowed to wear any uniform combination it wants for home games.
• The Broncos' home television games will be sold outside of the Mountain West's current TV contract with CBS Sports.
• The league will pay a $300,000 national TV bonus to teams that appear on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, ESPN or ESPN2. For Saturday games, the bonus will be $500,000. The bonus will not apply to games on CBS Sports Network — the league's current primary rights holder — or NBC Sports Network.
Though the changes impact all teams in the league — Fresno State, for example, will get the same bonuses that Boise State gets and is eligible for the same BCS (or BCS 2.0) payouts – the Broncos clearly stand to benefit most given their success in the last decade.
Since 2006, the Broncos have played 23 regular-season games on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC that would qualify for the bonus (home games and away conference games). Non-conference road games and bowl games would likely not qualify for the bonus since the Mountain West doesn't control the TV rights. Same thing with neutral site games, such as Virginia Tech (2010) and Georgia (2011).
What they're saying about the move
• ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson calls the Broncos' move "another hit to the Big East."
• USA Today's Dan Wolken says it is ironic that Boise State, which once was kept out of the Mountain West, forced the league to bend to its wishes.
• CBSSports.com's Jeremy Fowler writes the Mountain West is not done growing and could target Texas schools like UTEP, Houston, SMU or Texas-San Antonio.
My take on more Mountain West expansion: The league is in a strong position, particularly as it relates to the crumbling Big East. Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said he talked with "three to five" schools in the 24 hours before Boise State's announcement. San Diego State is one of them. He said he has had informal conversations with BYU. BYU should be the league's first choice.
• Wyoming AD says keeping Boise State in the Mountain West is a good thing.
"I understand their frustration with Boise,” Wyoming AD Tom Burman said. “But Boise deserves to be viewed a little differently than many programs. What they have done in the past 10 years is pretty remarkable. They've built a brand that put them in the position where they are extremely remarkable. National TV entities love the Broncos. And they've got a great following."
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