It all comes down to the television contract. I sound like a broken record on the benefits of Boise States planned move to the Big East for football in 2013.
Given all that has happened since the Broncos decided to make the move in December 2011, and reaffirmed it in June by formally withdrawing from the Mountain West, it makes sense to ask if its still the right decision for Boise State.
And my answer is the same as it was before the Broncos made their choice it comes down to the TV contract.
Nothing has changed that.
Not the new four-team playoff system. Not this weeks news that the Big East champion will have access to one of the seven lucrative new BCS bowl games as long as it is the top-ranked conference champ from the have-nots, a group that includes the Mountain West. Not the defection of Notre Dame. Not new Commissioner Mike Aresco.
None of it matters as much as the dollar figures for the TV deal. The Big East began an exclusive 60-day negotiation with ESPN on Sept. 1.
Were trying to get something done. Theres an awful lot of interest in the Big East from other networks and cable networks, Aresco told the Statesman this week. But were very cognizant of our relationship with ESPN. We grew up with them. They grew up with us. Its been a great relationship.
If the contract Aresco, a former executive vice president for college programming at CBS, and the conference negotiate brings in more than $6 million per year for football-only members like Boise State, then the decision to move to the Providence, R.I.-based league was a good one.
If it brings in $8 million to $10 million, it was a great move.
Anything less than $5 million and certainly something as low as $3 million could lead Boise State to rethink its position. The Mountain West will be waiting.
I dont know what it will ultimately end up being, but were looking for financial stability for our conference and maximum exposure, Aresco said.
The other goals of the TV negotiations: widen the gulf between the Big East and the other formerly non-AQ conferences, get as close as possible to the ACC in terms of per-year payout and make enough to entice future members, such as BYU or Air Force.
By agreeing to share a spot with the Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference and Sun Belt the Big East really had no other choice the league is taking an enormous risk. It risks becoming one of those leagues.
Aresco doesnt seem worried about that possibility. He sees it as an opportunity via the TV contract and on-field performance to create a gulf as wide as ever between the Big East and those other leagues. The Mountain West, in previous years, could credibly argue that its on-field performance exceeded that of the Big Easts.
The Big East will clearly stand on its merits and what it does on the field. Im very confident in what our Big East schools are going to accomplish, Aresco said.
Then he pointed out the most consideration for the Big East in the new bowl set-up: Access is access.
Even if its shared access in a bowl that could pay out roughly one-fourth of what the Rose Bowl will.
The Big East can sell its situation as, really, no different than the ACCs. While the ACC champ is assured a spot in the Orange Bowl opposite a team from the SEC or Big Ten (or Notre Dame), the Big East if it can create that gulf could be nearly assured of a spot opposite the Pac-12 or Big 12.
Yes, Mountain West members like Nevada and Fresno State might have something to say about that. But Aresco has to like his chances with Louisville, Boise State, Cincinnati, Rutgers, South Florida and Central Florida especially if those schools are able to pocket $8 million to $10 million per year from the next deal.
Boise State proved you dont have to have a huge budget to make it big time. But a lucrative TV contract can provide a buffer. It can change the argument.
And it might be able to entice more teams by convincing them of the leagues viability even as it stretches from coast to coast and strains geographic sensibility. Teams like BYU or Air Force. Neither was willing to sign up during the last round of expansion given the uncertainty surrounding the league. The Big East will be at 13 teams in 2015 when Navy joins as a football-only member.
If we did add a 14th member, logically a Western team might make sense, said Aresco, who will visit Boise for the UNLV game on Oct. 20.
Sign a lucrative TV deal and maybe (just maybe) the conversation changes about the demise of the Big East from dead conference walking to (at least) a conference with a pulse. And finally answer all the questions about Boise States decision.