If Boise State Left The MWC, Would That Move Impact BYU?

Jan 22, 2020, 3:02 PM
BYU Boise State...
Running back Alexander Mattison #22 of the Boise State Broncos falls over the defensive line during second half action against the BYU Cougars on November 3, 2018 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won the game 21-16. (Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s not every day you see a university within a collegiate conference, sue the conference they play in and seeking a jury trial. That’s what happened on Wednesday when Boise State University filed a lawsuit against the Mountain West Conference.

The issue Boise State has with the Mountain West Conference centers around the league’s new television agreement and bonus money. Boise State is in the MWC today because the league made concessions to keep the Broncos from moving to another conference back in 2011.

Months after accepting an invitation to become a full member of the Mountain West Conference in 2011, Boise was courted by the Big East Conference. The Broncos and the Big East entered a memorandum of understanding and was set to join the conference headquartered thousands of miles away from the blue turf.

The MWC did not want to lose the program that was going to be the face of their league on the heels of losing BYU, Utah, and TCU. So the MWC made concessions allowing Boise State to receive more television money and have control over television rights for their home football games.

Boise stayed put in the MWC after the league made those concessions giving the Broncos an extra $1.8 million in TV revenue over other members of the league.

Now with the new television contract, the Broncos won’t be receiving the additional revenue according to the MWC and they won’t have control over home football games.

Hello, lawsuit.

BYU fans everywhere remember all too well the lack of accommodations that the Mountain West Conference had for BYU before entering a deal with Comcast for The mtn television network. The TV deal in the MWC was one of the large reasons BYU started to chart a path towards independence all the way back in 2007.

So with this new lawsuit out there in the public, it begs the question, would Boise State leave the Mountain West and if they did, would it have an impact on Independent BYU?

Potential destinations for Boise State if they left the MWC

If Boise State left the Mountain West Conference, there seems to be only one conference that would be an option for the Broncos and that’s the American Athletic Conference, formerly the Big East Conference. Boise probably wouldn’t receive a “sweetheart” deal from the AAC like the Mountain West Conference gave them. But Boise could make more money as a football-only member of the AAC.

The AAC will receive $1 billion over the next 12 years from ESPN. By comparison, the MWC’s new deal with Fox & CBS is worth $270 million over six years.

With UConn recently leaving the AAC to take their basketball program to the Big East, there’s an opening in the AAC’s football league to bring the number of football programs back to an even 12.

If the AAC isn’t something that they want, one would think that Boise could be a possible Independent program as well. The Broncos have a strong relationship with ESPN and have shown an ability to schedule quality home-and-home series with Power 5 programs.

What impact (if any) does Boise’s situation have on BYU?

There were small pockets of the BYU fan base and some in the media that have clamored for the Cougars to go back to the Mountain West Conference. This recent debacle that was preventable between Boise State and the MWC probably highlights why BYU left the league in 2010 and is possibly one of the reasons they haven’t gone back.

BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe has expressed in the past that there are no “hard feelings” on BYU’s side towards schools in the MWC. Including MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson who Holmoe sat next to for four years while they served on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee from 2014-2018.

Holmoe and BYU have a strong relationship with Boise State. The two programs recently agreed to another long-term football series that runs annually, with the exception of one year, through the 2034 season.

So what happens with Boise State going forward likely to pique BYU’s interest.

If Boise left for the AAC, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for BYU to entertain a possible move to the AAC with the Broncos. A 13-team conference that has BYU, Boise State, and Navy as football-only members would make the AAC the clear-cut best conference in the Group of 5. In some years, it might be a league better than the Pac-12 or ACC.

But keep in mind, BYU and ESPN have reportedly agreed to a new seven-year deal for the Cougars home football games with no official announcement having taken place yet from BYU. Also, Holmoe recently had email correspondence with the Deseret News and stated that a “Power 5 conference remains the goal” for BYU. With Power 5 television contracts expiring around 2024 and 2025, another wave of realignment could happen soon. But no one knows for sure what the next shift in college sports will be.

The other scenario would seem to be Boise State becoming an independent. The Broncos as an FBS Independent would be intriguing as it would strengthen the independent profile in college football and that in return helps a program like BYU.

But would an Independent Boise program cut into the niche BYU has carved out in terms of scheduling with ESPN and Gridiron’s Dave Brown? It’s possible. But it could also strengthen the two school’s relationships even more than where they are at today.


Regardless of what happens with the Broncos, it could have a ripple-effect that traces back to BYU. Listen to the Cougar Tracks Podcast for more on this discussion between Boise State and the Mountain West Conference.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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If Boise State Left The MWC, Would That Move Impact BYU?