Bronco Beat

Boise State athletics gets Mountain West's fattest check

Boise State is 18-1 on ESPN2 since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1996, so that means Wyoming is all but done for.
Boise State is 18-1 on ESPN2 since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1996, so that means Wyoming is all but done for. Idaho Statesman file

The Mountain West will distribute $29 million to its member schools for 2013-14, Commissioner Craig Thompson said Wednesday. That’s the second-largest distribution in conference history.

Boise State will receive $3.7 million, the most of the league’s 12 members. That’s because the Broncos received a league-high $1.6 million in TV bonuses.

Boise State receives a total of $2.2 million in TV revenue.

The lowest distribution for a member receiving a full share is $2 million. Three members receive less than a full share — Hawaii (football only) and newcomers Utah State and San Jose State.

The league’s revenue approached the record despite not placing a team in the Bowl Championship Series because of the new TV deal negotiated as part of Boise State’s decision to stay in the conference. The Mountain West was able to add ESPN as a second TV partner and sell Boise State’s home games outside of its existing deal with CBS.

“Having two partners was a big difference,” Thompson said.

That deal also is why Boise State received the largest conference distribution. Fresno State earned $1.3 million and Wyoming got $1 million.

Without the bonus system, Boise State’s Mountain West distribution would have been reduced by $990,910.

San Diego State expects to receive $3.15 million to $3.25 million, U-T San Diego reported. The Aztecs earned $800,000 in TV bonuses but closed some of the gap with the Broncos by reaching the Sweet 16 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Here is my previous breakdown of TV bonuses.

Next year, Thompson expects to distribute a minimum of $38 million to $40 million. The College Football Playoff will add at least $10 million in revenue.

Other notes from Thompson, who met with the league presidents Sunday through Tuesday in Colorado Springs, Colo.:

— The Mountain West sent out a press release Tuesday calling the proposed NCAA governance changes that would give the top five conferences autonomy to offer more benefits to student-athletes “directionally correct.”

Those words were chosen because of the lack of details right now. For example, the presidents don’t know if cost-of-attendance scholarships will apply to all athletes or just those in revenue sports.

The Mountain West has until June 30 to submit its response to the steering committee that is formulating the changes.

“ ‘Directionally correct’ is good language because generally, yes, we’re agreeing, but the devil is in the details,” Thompson said. “ The things that help the student-athlete welfare — time off, less travel, the joke of 20 hours a week of practice, we do have to address that, we’re all in total favor of that.”

The conference is OK with the top five conferences offering benefits that it can’t afford.

“If you have the resources, it shouldn’t be our place to say no, you can’t spend it on that because that will be hard-pressed for us to match that,” Thompson said.

What the Mountain West doesn’t want to see if rules changes that could strip the league of players, such as increasing the football scholarship limit (85) or changing transfer rules so that players like Derek Carr and Doug Martin could build their resumes in the Mountain West and easily transfer to finish their careers in the SEC. “That’s a game-changer,” Thompson said. “Another one is the scholarship cap. I think the 85 cap has been tremendous for the growth of college football.”

Thompson also doesn’t want to see the top conferences change the rules for FBS membership, which could force schools out.

“You can argue all the national champions have come from those five leagues — 90 percent of his and 97 percent of that — but it didn’t hurt college football when TCU and Utah and Boise State were playing in the Fiesta and Sugar and Rose bowls,” he said. “It did not hurt the enterprise. It helped the enterprise.”

In the end, Thompson expects to avoid the idea of a breakaway by the top conferences.

“I’m not as threatened about a Division IV,” he said. “I really believe there’s a mutual ground. There’s compromises abundant that we can reach that everybody can say, ‘That works for me. It’s not 100 percent of what I wanted, but that works for me.’ ”

— The focus of the meetings was on improving the conference, not changing it. “This was probably the first time in three, if not four, years that we didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time on membership — who’s coming, who’s leaving, are we going to play divisions?” Thompson said. “It was so refreshing not to have to address membership. The stability was encouraging to say the least. We spent just a lot of time on how we now can grow the league. We talk about SWOT — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And we’ve had a document that’s really been sitting on the shelf for two years. We’ve been so immersed in just surviving and having a league that now we can get back to how do we get better.”

— The presidents discussed the need for strategic scheduling in football and basketball to enhance postseason opportunities but did not reach any conclusions. “Play good competition and win games — that’s ultimately how we’ll make our mark,” Thompson said. “We had a record six bowls last year. If we could play in a New Year’s Eve bowl in the new College Football Playoff, that’s the goal. That’s the destination, and how do we position ourselves to get there.”

— The Mountain West would like to partner with the American Athletic Conference in scheduling. “I don’t know what that means,” Thompson said. “Conceptually, we think those are good opponents.”

— The football championship game will be played at the stadium of the division winner with the highest ranking from the CFP committee. If neither team is ranked in the top 25, the old BCS computer rankings will be used.

— The Mountain West Network, which offered programming online, likely will be a money-loser for another couple years but the league is happy with how the first year went. “It’s going to take a couple years, but we’ll incrementally start to claw into some revenue net in maybe year three or four,” Thompson said. “That’s probably the goal.” The network offered 1,500 live streams in its first year, which included games, press conferences and academic events. Boise State’s Bronco All Access series produced 10,000 views for the first episode but more than 50,000 for some, Thompson said. “It was a very, very promising and encouraging first year,” he said. “We had four universities put out their commencement exercises.”

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