Boise State spurns Big East
Boise State will remain a member of the Mountain West Conference and will not join the Big East in 2013.
The Broncos' decision, confirmed in news releases by the the school and Mountain West on Monday, is the latest crippling blow to the Big East Conference, which has had 14 schools announce they were leaving the league in the past two years.
"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," football coach Chris Petersen said in the 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.
The Broncos will remain a Mountain West member in all sports instead of joining the Big East next year as a football-only member and the Big West in all other sports.
"The football programs in the Mountain West Conference continue to get stronger and we look forward to the challenge and competing in a strong league for many years to come," Peterson said.
Without Boise State plus the announcement that the league's seven Catholic basketball schools -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova -- are leaving the league, the Big East's future membership remains in flux.
A source with direct knowledge said there is a tentative in-person meeting of the seven presidents of the departing Catholic Big East schools set for Friday. Discussing exit fees and when to form the new conference are high on the agenda, as well as designating a point person.
Although Boise State never spent a day in the Big East, the Broncos still must pay a $5 million exit fee to the Big East, though Boise State officials said there are contract provisions that could lower that amount. The Mountain West is expected to help pay that fee, sources said.
As devastating as Boise State's decision is to the Big East, it's just as big a boost to the future of the Mountain West.
"Maintaining the Broncos program as part of the already solid foundation we have established creates a posture of great stability for the Mountain West going forward," commissioner Craig Thompson said in the statement. "It also enhances the conference's competitive and marketplace platforms, positioning us favorably in the evolving FBS landscape."
With Boise State remaining in the MWC, the league will have 11 football members in 2013: Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State and Wyoming.
Boise State's decision also will impact the Mountain West's television deal. Last week, the MWC and CBS agreed to restructure their deal, which will allow the Mountain West to sell packages to two other networks. With Boise State remaining, the value of the MWC's deal could increase to at least $25 million, sources told ESPN.
Meanwhile, the Big East must still try to negotiate its new media-rights deal -- the league's basketball deal will expire after this season, and the football deal will expire after the 2013-14 season -- with an uncertain future.
In November, the Big East announced Boise State would be in the league's West division along with San Diego State, Houston, Memphis, SMU and Temple. The East division: Louisville, Rutgers, Cincinnati, UConn, South Florida and UCF.
It's unknown now whether the Big East will keep the two-division format next season with only 11 members in 2013.
The Big East also could lose another member, as San Diego State may return to the Mountain West.
With Boise State remaining in the Mountain West, the Aztecs' Big East contract allows them to withdraw from the Big East without paying an exit fee if there is no other Big East member located west of the Rocky Mountains.
A Mountain West conference source with knowledge of the situation said San Diego State wants back in the Mountain West, but the league is holding up the process as it decides whether there is a better fit than the Aztecs and if there is a school that can deliver more value.
The source said if SDSU returns to the Mountain West, the Aztecs would have to come back on the conference's terms.
San Diego State was the first school to make the Big East-Big West move in trying to get the rest of its sports in the California and Hawaii-based conference. SDSU helped get Boise State into the Big West, too, once the Broncos made the football move to the Big East.
Yet, there has always been a concern at San Diego State in men's basketball as to how the Aztecs would handle going from playing multiple ranked teams in the Mountain West at a sold-out Viejas Arena to Big West teams that are much lower in the power ratings.
"We have been monitoring the ongoing changes in conference realignment and are aware of today's announcement," Aztecs AD Jim Sterk said in a statement Monday. "Today's news represents a significant change in conference alignment. We will continue to evaluate the situation and make decisions based on the best interest of the San Diego State athletic department and the University overall."
Boise State will have to pay the Big West a financial obligation that will be discussed in detail at a later date, Big West commissioner Dennis Farrell told ESPN. Farrell said the Big West doesn't want to lose San Diego State, either.
"But the ball is in their court and the Big East to see what they're going to do with football,'' Farrell said. "It's disappointing (about Boise) but the landscape has changed since we invited them.''
Farrell said if the Big West loses the Aztecs, too, then it will be a nine-team league "and we'll move on."
Boise State initially was sought after by the Big East to help bolster its football product after the losses of West Virginia and TCU to the Big 12.
Since Petersen became the Broncos' coach in 2006, Boise State is 84-8, finishing with four top-10 Associated Press rankings in the past seven seasons.
While Boise State was trying to decide between the MWC and Big East, sources told ESPN that the Broncos were trying to get either league to allow Boise State to retain its home television rights.
Such an arrangement is unheard of for a conference member. No school in any FBS conference retains its home television rights.
With neither conference agreeing to that arrangement, Boise State ultimately chose to remain in the Mountain West because of the MWC's geographic proximity and stability as well as the Big East's instability.
"Boise State home football games will be packaged with other Mountain West inventory and offered by the conference to interested networks, which the conference has the right to do under the newly restructured CBS agreement," Thompson told ESPN.
Boise State initially signed a contract on Dec. 7, 2011, to join the Big East on July 1, 2013.
At the time, Boise State president Robert Kustra said: "We've made the commitment to the Big East. I like the idea of introducing Boise State's brand of football east of the Mississippi. This will be the only conference in four time zones from coast to coast. That is very appealing to us. We intend to stay."
Yet during the next several months, Boise State continued to reconsider its decision.
In May, Boise State athletic director Mark Coyle met with officials from the Mountain West and MWC member schools in Boise. The Broncos also waited until literally the last minute on June 30 to formally withdraw from the league -- nearly seven months after signing to join the Big East.
In November, ESPN reported Boise State was still reconsidering its decision to join the Big East and discussing the possibility with the MWC.
Boise State becomes the second school to announce it was joining the Big East only to change its mind and never play in the Big East. TCU also planned to join the Big East but instead paid an exit fee and joined the Big 12.
Besides the possibility of losing San Diego State, sources told ESPN that Houston and SMU, scheduled to join the Big East next season, are among four possible teams the Mountain West may target, along with Tulsa and UTEP. The Mountain West will look to add a 12th member by 2014, sources said.
Louisville (to the ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) are leaving the Big East, most likely in 2014. The Big East will add East Carolina and Tulane in 2014 as replacements for Louisville and Rutgers, while Navy is scheduled to join in 2015.
However, Navy may now be wavering. Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told the Baltimore Sun on Dec. 13 that Navy "will take a real hard look at what's left standing" before deciding whether to join the Big East.
Information from ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz was used in this report.