Boise State Football

Why did computers decide home-field advantage? Because that’s what Boise State wanted

Between Fresno games, Harsin talks game prep and ignoring the critics

Boise State football head coach Bryan Harsin on Monday addressed the unique situation facing the Broncos: One Fresno game behind them and another in the immediate future.
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Boise State football head coach Bryan Harsin on Monday addressed the unique situation facing the Broncos: One Fresno game behind them and another in the immediate future.

Boise State’s contract with the Mountain West — negotiated at the end of 2012 when the Broncos decided to stay rather than depart for the Big East — keeps delivering for the Broncos.

The latest perk: home-field advantage for the Mountain West championship game Saturday against Fresno State.

The agreement includes four primary terms and a list of items under “other provisions.” The third such provision was that if the conference expanded to 12 football teams, “a conference championship game will be played at the home of the team with the highest BCS ranking as of a date specified by the MWC.”

The rules were adjusted when the College Football Playoff replaced the BCS. The home team is the division winner with the highest ranking in the CFP. If neither team is ranked when the regular season ends, or one team is ranked but is expected to lose that ranking (Boise State this year), then an average of four computer rankings is used, creating a BCS-like result.

Waiting until the CFP rankings come out on Tuesday wasn’t an option for logistical reasons — and that became another sore point for Fresno State fans when the Bulldogs slipped into the rankings at No. 25 this week.

Boise State insisted on this system because it protects a team that is on the cusp of a major bowl bid from having to play the championship game on the road. And when Boise State was making this deal, the Broncos were perennial contenders for such a berth.

If not for that provision, the system likely would be different. Only two other conferences play their championship games at home sites (American and Conference USA), and both rely on conference records to determine the site. That would have given Fresno State the edge — both teams are 7-1 in the Mountain West and the Bulldogs won the head-to-head game last week.

The Broncos’ advantage in the computers came down to two areas: They beat potential Sun Belt champ Troy in a nonconference game while Fresno State played Incarnate Word, and the Broncos played five bowl-bound Mountain West teams to Fresno State’s three because the Mountain Division is the stronger side.

“The body of work that we have put in this entire season earned us the opportunity to have this game at home,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “What have you done for me lately? Our last game, not much. We did have a body of work that put us in position to host this game. If they want to change it at some point, by all means.”

The first two terms in that agreement to stay in the Mountain West concerned the finances of the move. The third, though, requires the Mountain West to market Boise State’s home football games as a separate package, which gives the Broncos more control than the rest of the league over the fate of their games in the next TV deal. The fourth requires a distribution of TV revenue based on exposure, which has been lucrative for the Broncos and now guarantees them $1.8 million more per year than the rest of the conference, and a bonus for a participant in a BCS/New Year’s Six bowl, which the Broncos capitalized on in 2014.

Among the final provisions was the right for Boise State to wear all-blue uniforms at home (or any other combination that conforms with general Mountain West rules). This was in response to a Mountain West rule that prohibited the Broncos’ favored home uniforms.