This Day In Sports: The Broncos’ olden days of realignment

August 24, 2012: The latest chapter of an unsettling year for Boise State athletics, as the Big West Conference invites the Broncos to join in non-football sports effective July 1, 2013.Boise State had been searching for a home for those teams since it was announced football would head to the Big East in 2013 the previous December. The Broncos had to pony up—with travel subsidies of approximately $750,000 per year and a special entry fee of $2.5 million. But Boise State received financial help from the Big East. A little more than four months later it was all for naught, as Boise State struck a deal to remain in the Mountain West.

As we look at it today, the Big West move was ironic. USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington are moving to the Big Ten next year in all sports, with impossible travel and sleep patterns for their non-football entities. The thought of Boise State and San Diego State planting their Olympic sports in the Big East was ludicrous. (The Aztecs, the Broncos’ partner in the football-only move, had helped sell the Big West on Boise State’s membership in the all-California conference, but it was going to be a bummer for both schools, especially in men’s basketball).

The motive in Boise State’s planned football move was to finally find a path to automatic-qualifying status in the BCS system, which the Big East had. Just three days before the announcement in 2011, the Broncos had been passed over for a BCS bowl despite a No. 7 ranking, the fourth time they had finished in the top 10 and had been left out of college football’s biggest bowls. Boise State was also betting on a dramatic increase in television revenue for the program.

But later in 2012, the Big East 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 was struggling to negotiate a new TV contract that at one time was predicted to be lucrative. The Big East also saw its automatic-qualifying spot in major bowls disappear with the implementation of the CFP system in 2014. So on New Year’s Eve—at the last possible moment—the Broncos announced they were staying in the Mountain West. They were able to separate their home games in Mountain West TV negotiations, as well as spur the league to institute a bonus system for national TV appearances.

(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.)

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