The Boise State football programs supercharged growth during the past two decades has left every bitter rival behind.
Idaho State and Montana from the Big Sky.
Idaho from the Big Sky, Big West and WAC.
Soon Fresno State and Nevada from the WAC and Mountain West.
Into the void steps BYU a perfect match for the Broncos in so many ways. And with the schools planning to play annual non-conference games through at least 2023, this is a series that can survive regardless of conference affiliations.
Its certainly a popular idea with fans the Broncos and Cougars will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bronco Stadium in front of a state-record crowd and in one of the prime slots on ESPNs TV schedule.
Its going to be a great environment, Boise State senior right guard Michael Ames said. Everyones going to be watching us. Its going to be a great opportunity for us and for BYU to play tough and to play hard. And I think both teams are going to bring it.
These are two of the most successful programs in college football, historically and recently. Each has a national fan base built by playing a fun, high-scoring style of football on national TV and challenging for a place alongside the elite programs. Theyre neighbors in the intermountain West. And because of the similarity of their accomplishments, their fans already seem like rivals.
Yet the programs have met just twice Boise State wins in 2003 and 2004.
Theyre really similar to us, Boise State sophomore safety Lee Hightower said. Theyre close by. Its going to be good to test ourselves against this team year in and year out. After having them for a couple years, (the rivalry) will probably build up.
Boise State originally signed a four-year deal with BYU in 2008, when the Broncos were in the WAC and the Cougars were in the Mountain West. The series was scheduled to start in 2012.
BYU went independent in football last year, when rival Utah left the Mountain West for the Pac-12. That put their Holy War series in doubt right now, theres at least a two-year hiatus planned in 2014 and 2015.
Former Boise State Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier, who watched Utah, BYU and TCU leave the Mountain West as the Broncos joined, saw an opportunity to upgrade his schedule and negotiated a 12-year deal with BYU from 2012 to 2023.
This series would develop into our best rivalry, Bleymaier predicted in an email to President Bob Kustra.
New Athletic Director Mark Coyle also likes the idea.
It excites our fan base, Coyle said.
Still, there is at least some doubt whether this budding rivalry will hold.
The contract includes a $1 million buyout one that Boise State could avoid as it moves into the Big East next year. The deal includes an exemption from the buyout if a school joins a conference with automatic-qualifier status in the Bowl Championship Series. Boise State still would have to play four of the 12 contracted games.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen on Monday questioned the wisdom of the long-term contract. He already is facing a schedule upgrade in the Big East.
Thats a lot of years strung together, Petersen said. Thats like theyre in your league, and theyre not in our league.
Our rivals are on the East Coast and in Texas and in San Diego (in the Big East). I dont worry about rivalries. I know it can be healthy and good, but thats just not where we are right now. Down the line, well have some new ones in a hurry.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said the series is probably too much, too. He cited the unpredictable nature of the college football landscape, but acknowledged the possibility that this could become a signature series.
It depends on how the teams play against one another, he said. The regional part is helpful. If you could ever get it at the end of the year that would add to it. There are a lot of intriguing things about it as long as both sides can play at a level that makes it competitive.
That seems like a given.
Boise State has finished in the Top 25 eight of the past 10 seasons.
BYU has finished there in five of the past six seasons.
Weve both been successful, Boise State sophomore wide receiver Matt Miller said. Thats going to make it a great matchup in years to come and on Thursday night.
Said redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Ukwuachu: Its going to be one of those games a couple years down the road that is kind of like a rivalry game. So we have to start it off right.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat