February 9, 2010: As a sidebar during a press conference introducing his new chief operating officer, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott mentions the conference will be exploring expansion over the next year. And boom—it was a top story, with speculation running wild.The most plausible scenario immediately painted was Utah and Colorado moving to the Pac-10, creating a chaotic trickle-down effect that would influence the future of the Mountain West and the WAC. The year that followed featured a seismic shift that included Boise State.
By June of that year, the changes began in earnest. Colorado was the first team to jump, switching to the Pac-10 on June 10. Nebraska followed suit, going to the Big Ten the following day. With Utah leaning toward the Pac-12, it was time for the Mountain West to make a move. Four days after putting an invitation to Boise State on hold due to the rapidly changing college sports landscape, Mountain West presidents voted unanimously to make Boise State their 10th member, effective July 1, 2011. (The MW had been holding out hope it could land Colorado first.)
From my Scott Slant column of June 11, 2010:
I went to the Crosby Stills & Nash concert last night in Eagle. I had never seen them in concert. But, as a 17-year-old rookie disc jockey, I played their first album on the radio when it was new in the summer of 1969. I got to thinking about the Boise of then and the Boise of now, not knowing what would happen about 15 hours later. At that time—and it really doesn’t seem that ancient to me—Boise State dreamed of the Big Sky Conference. It Boise State College and wasn’t even a member of the NCAA yet. The biggest games on the 1969 football schedule were Idaho State and Weber State. Then came the Big Sky in 1970, Division II in 1973, Division I-AA in 1978, the Big West and Division I-A in 1996, and the WAC in 2001.
And today, here’s the Mountain West bringing this school in, with commissioner Craig Thompson explaining why his conference didn’t want to wait any longer: “It was to make sure we got Boise State University in the fold, and to make sure we added the value that Boise State brings—and then continue from there.” Thompson touted Boise State as giving his league four perennial Top 25 teams. Suite Judy Blue Turf.
Note: three of those “perennial Top 25 teams,” Utah, BYU and TCU, were about to leave. A year and a half later, Boise State tried to as well, announcing a move to the Big East along with San Diego State. At the same time, the Broncos announced their non-football sports would return to the Western Athletic Conference. Of course, none of that ever happened. The following year, on New Year’s Eve, Boise State finalized a deal to remain in the Mountain West. During 2012, the Big East had lost Rutgers to the Big Ten, Louisville to the ACC, and seven non-football Catholic universities to a new conference they planned to form.
The league, which would be renamed the American Athletic Conference when the Catholic schools retained the Big East name, was struggling to negotiate a new TV contract that at one time was predicted to be lucrative. The Big East (soon to be AAC) also saw its automatic-qualifying spot in major bowls disappear with the implementation of the CFP system in 2014. Boise State, meanwhile, was able to separate their home games in Mountain West TV negotiations. There’s more chaos today, but the Broncos aren’t part of it. Yet.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)