BOISE – Boise State’s highly successful football team is headed to the Big East, a conference that promises more money, a clearer path to Bowl Championship Series games and a platform perfect for promoting the Broncos brand to a much wider audience.
University President Bob Kustra announced the new league partnership Wednesday, calling the move an incredible opportunity for a football team and school committed to elevating its national profile. The Broncos are expected to join the Big East starting in July 2013 along with Houston, SMU, Central Florida and San Diego State.
Meanwhile, the rest of Broncos athletics programs, including men’s and women’s basketball, will be rejoining the Western Athletic Conference, the league that served as the home for all Boise State sports for a decade before this year’s departure for the Mountain West Conference.
Still, Boise State remains a football school, a notion that was reinforced with the conference upgrade and the perks that will likely come with it.
Kustra said the decision to change leagues was simple considering the television revenue doled out annually to Big East members and its status as one of six conferences with a guaranteed spot in Bowl Championship Series games, something lacking in the WAC and MWC.
Despite their incredible success on the field, the Broncos, who have compiled a 72-6 record over the last five years, have often been snubbed by those big money games because some believed they played an inferior schedule compared to teams from the Big Ten, Big 12 or SEC.
Kustra said he expects a revamped Big East will be split into two divisions, with Boise State joining Louisville, Cincinnati, SMU, Houston and San Diego State aligned in the west.
Kustra said he also expects a new television contract the league will renegotiate in 2012 to generate an estimated $6 million per football team annually, four times the amount paid annually under the MWC television deal.
Even more critical, Kustra believes the reconstituted Big East – strengthened by the teams added Wednesday and others that may yet join – will retain its automatic qualifying status for BCS games when that deal is renegotiated with the other conferences.
“The Big East conference is the first truly national college football conference,” Commissioner John Marinatto said Wednesday during a teleconference with the university leaders from the five schools.
As with Boise State, San Diego State will join the Big East only for football. Houston, SMU and UCF will be leaving Conference USA and joining the Big East in all sports.
The Big East has also been pursuing Air Force and Navy as football only members, but it seems Air Force is no longer a possibility.
The Big East has only five football members committed to the conference beyond this season: Connecticut, Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers and USF. It also has seven schools that do not play major college football and Notre Dame, which competes in the Big East in everything but football.
Marinatto has pledged to hold Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia in the conference until 2014, in accordance with the Big East bylaws. West Virginia wants to join the Big 12 in 2012 and has sued the Big East to get an early release. The Big East has filed a countersuit.