The Mountain West will send a conference-record eight football teams to bowl games this season — and the conference will pay for all of those trips.
The conference runs its postseason in a way that attempts to limit the financial risk to bowl participants by pooling revenue and expenses. The conference collects the payouts from each of the games, pays any sponsorships owed to the bowls (subsidizing their existence) and provides each participating school a travel stipend based on the expected cost.
Boise State received $687,000 this year for its trip to the Poinsettia Bowl. The Broncos depart Saturday and play Northern Illinois on Wednesday in San Diego.
Any additional expenses are covered by the school.
“It’s hard. You’ve got to watch it closely,” Athletic Director Curt Apsey said of staying within that budget. “For us, we’ve always tried to take the path of making sure we do the best we can to provide the best experience for the players that are going and the coaches. It’s supposed to be a time of celebration of a successful year, so we’re excited about going down there. ... Our goal is to break even, and we’re close.”
Boise State has sold about 2,000 tickets to the game. The revenue goes back to the Mountain West to help pay bowl expenses.
Still, the school encouraged its fans to buy tickets through the school because that could help the Broncos’ case in future bowl decisions.
“Once again, our fans stepped up to support us,” Apsey said. “One of our big messages was, ‘If you are going, make sure you buy them from us.’ ”
The Mountain West system means that teams that didn’t make a bowl are helping send 5-7 San Jose State to the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla., and teams that sell a lot of tickets — New Mexico, for example, playing at home — have to share those proceeds.
But Apsey hasn’t heard any clamoring for change.
“That’s what the conference is there for, to support the teams that are in it,” he said.
The one exception to the pooling of revenue and expenses is a New Year’s Six trip like Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl berth last year. For those, the participating team’s payout is dependent on strong ticket sales to its fan base.
MW stays at 12
Rice and UTEP have been mentioned as possible Mountain West expansion candidates, but the conference exited its mid-year meeting by releasing a statement saying the presidents were content with 12 members.
Rice and UTEP were in the WAC with Boise State from 2001 to 2005.
Those schools are attractive potential expansion candidates because of their locations in Texas, but adding members would dilute conference revenue.
“That’s definitely a concern,” Apsey said. “... That’s a concern for any conference discussing the possibility of expansion.”
Nine football graduates
Eight current players and one former player will graduate Saturday before the Broncos leave for San Diego.
The grads: former wide receiver Dallas Burroughs (criminal justice administration), tight end Jake Hardee (criminal justice administration; his second degree), center Marcus Henry (human resource management), tight end Holden Huff (communication), long snapper Kevin Keane (marketing), defensive tackle Tutulupeatau Mataele (communication), defensive tackle Justin Taimatuia (communication), safety Darian Thompson (health science) and offensive tackle Rees Odhiambo (exercise science).
With some graduating previously, most of the Broncos’ 20 seniors will have their degrees in hand before playing their final game.
“I’m excited,” Taimatuia said. “Words can’t really explain a lot about how I feel about graduating, but I made it this far and I’m blessed.”
Mid-year signing day
Boise State signed four players Wednesday. Coach Bryan Harsin’s thoughts on the group:
▪ High school linebacker Tyson Maeva: “Wanted to come in early. I think he’s the first one ever to do that from his high school.”
▪ Twin Falls High offensive lineman Kole Bailey: “Liked the way he played and just his energy. He’s a great fit for the mentality we have.”
▪ Junior college wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr.: “Some teams made a run on him late, and we were able to hang on to him.”
▪ Auburn transfer offensive lineman Will Adams: “When he got here, immediate connection with our guys. Really fit in.”
Junior defensive end Kamalei Correa hasn’t told Harsin whether he intends to declare for the NFL Draft, the coach said. ... Senior defensive tackle Antoine Turner has missed the entire season for academic reasons. The case still hasn’t been resolved, Harsin said. ... Sophomore quarterback Ryan Finley, the season-opening starter, has returned to practice but isn’t ready to play, Harsin said. Finley broke an ankle in the Idaho State game in September. He’s eligible for a medical redshirt if he doesn’t play in the bowl game. His replacement, true freshman Brett Rypien, was named to the All-Mountain West first team. “Finley will be healthy by spring ball, and we’ll let those guys go back out there and compete,” Harsin said. ... Senior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes will play in the bowl game, Harsin said. He missed the last two regular-season games with an ankle injury. ... Redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Ogle led the offense to victory in the Bronco Bowl between reserve players Thursday. The defense won last year.
Chadd Cripe is in his 14th season covering Boise State football for the Idaho Statesman. He also votes in The AP Top 25. He can be reached at ccripe@ idahostatesman.com.
▪ Who: Boise State (8-4, 5-3 Mountain West) vs. Northern Illinois (8-5, 6-2 Mid-American)
▪ When: 2:30 p.m. Wednesday
▪ Where: Qualcomm Stadium (71,500, grass), San Diego
▪ TV: ESPN (Beth Mowins, David Diaz-Infante, Shelley Smith)
▪ Radio: KBOI, 670 AM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender); ESPN Radio (Bill Rosinski, David Norrie, Joe Schad)
▪ Series: First meeting
▪ Vegas line: Boise State by 8 1/2
▪ Tickets: $39, $61 or $78 at BroncoSports.com/ bowlcentral. Tickets about $10 more through SanDiegoBowlGames.com.