Boise State gets largest cut of Mountain West’s record distribution

The Mountain West Conference will distribute a record $47 million to its member institutions this season, and once again, Boise State will get the largest share – by a large margin.

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson told the Idaho Statesman on Thursday that Boise State will receive $5.3 million from the conference, plus get a little more than $4.1 million for the Broncos’ appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. Last year, the conference distributed $29 million, but the College Football Playoff’s first year – and the Broncos’ appearance in it – helped bumped up that total significantly this season.

Last year, Boise State got $3.7 million from the conference, which also was the most. Thompson said Fresno State will get $4.9 million this year, with Nevada and Utah State expected to get more than $4 million. The Broncos again were aided by getting the most TV bonus money, earning more than $2 million.

The conference members’ school presidents met with Thompson for three days in Park City, Utah, concluding on Tuesday. Among the topics addressed were:

– Many discussions involved cost of attendance, concussion protocol, the league’s competitive success and improving scheduling, Thompson said. Nevada is the only school not expected to cover cost of attendance next academic year, but will the following. He said eight or nine of the 12 Mountain West schools are capable of providing cost of attendance to every scholarship athlete.

"Utah State got a little over $1.5 million from the state legislature, and Colorado State is using (former football coach) Jim McElwain’s buyout, in part, so there are some creative ways to help with that," Thompson said.

On scheduling, Thompson said in several sports, there will be mandates as to who schools can play, including using metrics like RPI to limit how many games are against lower-tier opponents. He said it hasn’t been ramped up as quickly in men’s basketball, but added the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge was resumed in part because of the push for better games.

"We have, in a number of the sports, some requirements that will kick in this fall … in men’s basketball, we’d send four or five teams to the NCAA Tournament by increasing one game like when we had the challenge in years past," Thompson said.

-For the second straight year, the cloud of expansion or subtraction wasn’t hanging over the meetings, thus allowing for more focus on the tasks at hand.

"We were able to talk about competitive success, growing our profile and making the student-athlete experience better, instead of that business aspect," Thompson said.

– With the first year of the College Football Playoff behind us, Thompson said he was "very pleased" with the system.

"The fact a two-loss Boise State was able to play in one of those bowl games probably exceeded our expectations," Thompson said. "… it proved the premise that we should be in the conversation as the top ‘group of five’ league on a yearly basis. We’ve really been the flag-bearer … since 2004, in bowl records, only the SEC has a better win percentage. This new playoff, how Boise State had two losses, but came in and won, it shows our future is bright."

Though talks of expanding the playoff haven’t been heated as of late, Thompson said "I think it will come, I wouldn’t stand in the way." He said he would, however, have qualms if perhaps the format went to eight to include all five "power five" champions and three at-large teams.

– Thompson said the league’s agreement to play its basketball tournaments at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas ends after March’s event. He added the search for a 2017 site has begun, and Thomas & Mack is still a viable option. A vast majority of fans polled said they prefer the tournament in Las Vegas, and Thompson said it will in all likelihood remain there. The city’s new 20,000-seat Las Vegas Arena is expected to open next year, though the Pac-12, currently at the MGM Grand, is likely to have first right of refusal as the venue is an MGM property. Many league coaches aren’t keen on playing at Thomas & Mack, which is UNLV’s home arena. If the Pac-12 moves its tournament, the MGM Grand will be considered, but the fact it is a smaller venue will also be weighed, Thompson said.