BOISE, Idaho >> For Boise State President Bob Kustra, the decision to part ways with the Big East and rejoin the Mountain West ultimately came down to predictable revenue, conference stability and the opportunity for the football team to cash in on its growing national brand.
Kustra announced Monday that Boise State was backing out of its commitment to join the faltering Big East, opting instead to keep the Broncos football team and its other athletic programs in the Mountain West.
Boise State’s decision was made easier by the Mountain West’s own ambitions, a new television contract for football games and a willingness to give Boise State a few special perks. Ultimately, Boise State and the MWC reached a deal that was too tempting to pass up and rewards the football team for its success and popularity.
“I was committed to the Big East decision and thought it was a good decision,” Kustra told reporters Wednesday. “But this thing started changing, and then it became a different matter. That’s where the Boise State and the Mountain West come together for this very innovative approach.”
The centerpiece of the deal, and a provision unique to Boise State among its MWC peers, is the ability for the Broncos to negotiate its own television deal for all home games. Boise State will work with the MWC to sign a broadcast deal with the top networks that provides the best exposure and revenue for the school, Kustra said.
Money from that deal will go to the Mountain West, then distributed back to Boise State and other teams in a bonus plan. For example, the MWC will pay Boise State $300,000 if a game at Bronco Stadium is televised nationally by ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, CBS or Fox, and another $200,000 if that game is played on Saturdays.
The MWC also has agreed to 50/50 split with Boise State — or any other league team — the revenue paid for making it to a BCS bowl game.
Ultimately, those financial incentives and giving Boise State the flexibility to control its own television destiny were more appealing than anything the Big East was prepared to offer, Kustra said. The Big East has yet to renegotiate its television deal, creating even more uncertainty for the Broncos and its perennially powerful football team.
“We started hearing that there was interest in Boise State as a media property separate and apart from the other conferences,” Kustra said. “I think that’s when we realized there was an opportunity here. When the networks speak so clearly about the importance of Boise State University’s football program and what it means to them, then that had a large role to play in moving these conversations forward.
“When one school like Boise State over the last 10 years rises up as we have, it does put you in a position where you have to lay the cards on the table and acknowledge you have a property here that can not only be valuable for the individual school, but for the entire conference,” Kustra said.
Now, Boise State athletic director Mark Coyle will work with other MWC schools to redo the Broncos 2013 schedule, which included home games with Big East programs like Louisville and Rutgers.
School officials will also begin negotiating the costs associated with leaving the Big East and the Big West, which until last week was the new conference for men’s and women’s basketball and other Broncos teams.
The exit fee for the Big East is $5 million, but Kustra said the contract has language that could lessen that amount. Under the new arrangement, the MWC has agreed to pay up to $3 million toward those exit fees. Kustra said he expects to honor the Big West contract and its $1.5 million exit fee.
Boise State will give the Mountain West 11 members next season, along with Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Jose State, Utah State, Colorado State, Air Force, Wyoming, UNLV and Hawaii for football-only. Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said he has also had discussions with other western schools about joining. If the conference gets to at least 12 members, it likely will hold a football championship game.
Another result of the Boise State deal is the MWC agreeing to give San Diego State the first option to rejoin. San Diego State is still part of the Big East and has until Jan. 31 to decide what to do, according to the agreement.