Boise State enjoying the perks of remaining in Mountain West

ccripe@idahostatesman.comSeptember 13, 2013 

Boise State coach Chris Petersen, shown doing an interview with Samantha Ponder at the BYU game last season, covets the exposure ESPN brings to his program. “Our guys have always played well when we’ve been on there,” he said.


Boise State President Bob Kustra completed a complex deal with the Mountain West on New Year’s Eve to ensure that the Broncos stayed in the conference for 2013 and beyond.

Only one of the many details mattered to football coach Chris Petersen.

“The only thing that we’ve always been all about is being on ESPN,” he said.

He got his wish — and a couple of other perks — when Boise State decided to scrap its plans to join the Big East (now the American Athletic Conference).

Most of the key deal points will be on display Friday night as the Broncos open conference play against Air Force at Bronco Stadium.

The game is on ESPN — just the second time in three years that a Broncos home game will air on the Worldwide Leader.

The Broncos will wear all blue — a uniform combination forbidden as part of their original membership agreement with the conference.

And Boise State will earn its first national TV bonus — worth $300,000.

“The new agreement,” Kustra said in January, “recognizes the value of Boise State by providing a path to enhanced exposure and revenues for Boise State football while keeping us true conference partners in every sense.”

Here’s how the key stipulations of the deal have worked out so far:


Because Boise State was in limbo between two conferences, the Mountain West was able to exempt the Broncos’ home games from its existing TV contract and sell them separately on the open market.

It was a unique solution to one of the Mountain West’s biggest problems — how to get the Broncos back on ESPN.

“We didn’t like going to the Mountain West the first time, being off ESPN,” Petersen said. “That was the big negative — probably the only negative.”

The Mountain West, with Boise State’s participation, sold the Broncos’ six annual home games to ESPN. The money goes to the conference.

The result: Boise State will play seven regular-season games on an ESPN entity this season — at least four on ESPN/ESPN2 and no more than two on Web-based ESPN3.

They played three regular-season games on ESPN in 2011 and two in 2012. That ended a streak of four straight years with at least five regular-season appearances.

And most of those games will originate from Bronco Stadium — home of the trademark blue turf.

“You just show the field and you know who it is,” Petersen said.

Players who have spent most of the past two years on lesser-known channels like Versus/NBC Sports Network, CBS Sports Network and the defunct Mtn. are eager to display their talent on the ubiquitous ESPN.

The Broncos are 49-9 on ESPN-affiliated channels since 1999, including wins in their first 15 appearances when the program grew from obscure to nationally respected and a 13-game winning streak in 2009-10.

“Being a business major, I get it,” senior quarterback Joe Southwick said. “You want to get your brand out there. … We’re hoping to represent it well and hopefully get a lot of eyes on Boise.”

Added sophomore safety Darian Thompson: “That brings a little amp to our game to have everybody watching.”


Boise State increased its conference payout in part by negotiating a new TV bonus payout that is available to all schools but figures to benefit the Broncos the most. Schools will receive $300,000 for Mountain West-owned, non-Saturday games on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox and $500,000 for Saturday games on those networks. That money comes out of the conference TV revenue, taking what once was an even distribution and weighting it toward the schools that TV likes. The remaining revenue is split evenly among the members.

Boise State has two Friday bonus games scheduled and is guaranteed at least one Saturday bonus game for a total of $1.1 million. It has two more games that could generate bonuses, giving the school a maximum bonus potential of $2.1 million.

San Jose State is guaranteed $600,000. Five schools are guaranteed $300,000. Five schools could get shut out.

The full scope of the bonus payouts won’t be known until November, however. ESPN still holds the rights to 13 games that haven’t been scheduled. Other than Boise State, the teams with the most to gain by making themselves attractive to ESPN this season are Nevada (four unscheduled games), Fresno State (three) and UNLV (three).

That gives Nevada the potential for a $2.3 million bonus — the highest potential in the league. But it’s highly unlikely all of the Wolf Pack’s available games would land on qualifying channels. ESPN can place the unscheduled games on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS or ESPN3. Only the first three qualify for bonuses.

Fresno State has the third-highest max bonus at $1.8 million. The Bulldogs — 2-0 and on the cusp of cracking the Top 25 — could get there if they make a run at a Bowl Championship Series berth.


The Broncos agreed to abandon their all-blue look on the blue turf for conference games as part of their membership agreement to join the Mountain West in 2011. That stipulation irked Petersen — “That’s who we are,” he said at the time — and it was overturned as part of the Broncos’ new deal.

To celebrate, the school is staging a blue-out for Friday’s game and the players will wear their blue uniforms in a Mountain West game for the first time.

“That’s classic Boise State,” Southwick said of the blue-on-blue look.


Boise State also negotiated a change in the way the Mountain West handles bowl proceeds. Half of any profit goes to the team that earns it — a system that actually could cost the Broncos money and benefit Fresno State if the Bulldogs make a BCS run.

Click here for complete Boise State football coverage, including previews of Friday night's game against Air Force.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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