Just when you thought it was all over, the Big 12 has reversed course and pulled schools across the country back into the murky waters of college realignment. After going back and forth for months on the subject, commissioner Bob Bowlsby surprised many in the college athletics world at the league’s media days by saying the Big 12 is essentially opening its doors to new members.
There should be no shortage of schools that want to walk through those doors to join the Power Five club and Bowlsby’s phones are likely to be ringing off the hook over the next six to nine months. While the latest round of musical chairs won’t be quite as involved as in recent years, it nevertheless should make for a fascinating 2016.
Three Reasons Why Boise State Should Join the Big 12
1. A strong football program capable of winning big games
Boise State is one of the most successful programs in the country ever since moving up to FBS, hobnobbing with Ohio State, Michigan, Oklahoma and others in the top five in terms of winning percentage. The Broncos knocked on the doorstep of the title game year after year back in the BCS era and have a great track record in major bowl games (just ask the Sooners). Plus, it has to be encouraging that the Broncos have had a high level of success under multiple head coaches the past 20 years. Capturing the first-ever Group of Five bid for a New Year’s Six bowl in the College Football Playoff era has to count for something too.
2. The Boise State brand is strong among college football fans
The blue turf. The Statue of Liberty. The proposal. Few non-Power Five programs have a bigger brand than the Broncos. Despite not being the biggest fan base west of the Mississippi, Boise State brings in solid TV ratings that far exceed the actual size of its market size — there’s a reason the team is on ESPN and ESPN2 so much. Some of the most memorable moments in college sports have happened with the boys in blue being involved.
3. Broncos are probably open to taking the smallest share of TV revenue
Let’s face it, conference realignment is all about getting more money for current Big 12 members and in that, Boise State can probably help the most. Payouts from the Mountain West have improved over the past few years but, even in a good year, Boise State is receiving several million dollars less than even a half share of what Big 12 teams are getting now. The Broncos could make more money with a partial share of Big 12 revenues while also providing a bigger cut for existing schools compared to other expansion candidates. That’s a win-win on the balance sheet for all involved.
Three Reasons Why Boise State Shouldn’t Join the Big 12
1. Things get dicey beyond football
You’ll notice most of the pros above are football-centric and that’s no mistake. The rise of Boise State on the national radar is almost solely the result of success on the gridiron. The basketball team has shown flashes the past few years and wrestling is very strong at the school but that’s about it. In the most recent year’s Director’s Cup standings (measuring success across all sports), Boise State finished behind every Big 12 school but were in the same area as West Virginia, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State.
2. Boise is remote and in a small market
The shortest road trip the Broncos would have to make is still pretty lengthy: nearly 1,300 miles to Kansas State. Being a football-only invite would mitigate some travel issues but the point remains that the school is very far away from the Big 12 center of gravity in Texas. Add in the fact that the Boise market is in the triple digits among the Sioux Falls and Fargos of the country and there’s limited appeal for the Broncos based just on TV sets and geography. A smaller than average football stadium, even with the blue turf, doesn’t help.
3. Academics are not exactly Ivy League
While the whole Big 12 expansion debate is being done to drive the bottom line of schools, keep in mind that these are college presidents voting on schools. While some members may not have a ton of qualms about inviting some schools that don’t have the strongest academic reputation, heavyweights like Texas and Oklahoma probably don’t want to see the conference watered down all that much. Boise State is not listed in the latest U.S. News & World Report national rankings and is just 61st in the western region according to the magazine.
The Big 12 appears to be all over the map (literally and figuratively) when it comes to expansion so it’s hard to nail down precisely what leaders in the conference are looking for when it comes to the schools they want to invite. If the league is looking to add a strong football power or even a school that would be football-only, Boise State likely ranks near the top of the list. If one considers all of the other factors, the Broncos probably slide down the rankings behind BYU, Cincinnati and others.
As things currently stand, Boise State sits somewhat in the middle of the pack and undoubtedly hoping the Big 12 expands by four teams to get to 14 total. The Broncos would make a lot of sense as a football-only member/travel partner for BYU and both schools would likely be able to join as soon as 2017. Outside of that scenario however, it’s hard to see the Broncos truly getting a golden ticket to join the Big 12 when evaluated on all fronts.
And heck, who knows if Oklahoma would block Boise State just because of what happened at the Fiesta Bowl.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.