Realign This – A Realists View of Big 12 Expansion

It feels like every word that there is to be said about Big 12 realignment already has been said by now. The consensus seems to be that Boise State is yet again going to be left on the outside looking in, languishing in the Mountain West while the likes of BYU and Houston ride their “ACADEMICS THO” arguments to the promised land where four star recruits and cash flow like milk and honey. This is all about sports, right?

Well, no. Not really. The Big 12 said what they wanted at the outset of this discussion – large national following, competitive teams in both the big money sports, a big fan base that shows up for the big games, and close proximity to the other member schools. Their number one concern is the number of fans a school brings with them. That’s not about making the Big 12 better, its about money. As is everything else on this list.

When its put in those terms, its easy to see why Boise State gets the media speculation it does. Boise State is rich in all the other things that count, but the financial efficiency points to the fact that we’re not rolling in cash. BSU has figured out how to bankroll all this, and the fans do our part, but Boise has no T. Boone Pickens, no Uncle Phil. The Big 12 wants to expand the TV footprint, and while bringing the Idaho market is easy, the rest of the eyeballs that land on the screen when Boise is playing are harder to quantify. Would the country tune in for Boise v. Oklahoma? Hella. Would they turn in for Boise v. Iowa State? That’s a little sketchier.

The Broncos are a hell of an investment opportunity. A cash infusion from a P5 conference could be amazing for the university, the city, and the conference that chooses Boise State. However, with any investment comes risk. Boise State hasn’t been a four year school for that long. They just got recognized as a Doctorial Research University by the Carnegie Foundation last year, in the lowest classification. Every other university in the Big 12 is the highest level with the exception of Oklahoma State, and they are second tier….and all of those schools have been in that status for years. Are the powers that be in the Big 12 wanting to listen about watering down their academics from their peers to get a perceived football school? Or are they wanting to have a story to tell about being part of the springboard that has taken Boise State from a junior college to even being in this discussion? University presidents and athletic directors aren’t exactly known for their forward thinking ways.

Travel is another issue. Football is one thing, but the trip from West Virginia to Boise for a volleyball game is rough no matter how much positive spin you want to put on it. Increased costs don’t make AD’s happy, and missing classes doesn’t make faculty happy or life any easier for athletes. OTOH, maybe ramping up that whole BYU travel partner idea will help enough to make those costs offset in the eyeballs that a BYU/BSU rivalry could bring.

Boise State would hold their own in the Big 12 athletically. They’d walk in better than the majority of the conference on the gridiron, and right in the thick of things on the hardwood. The track program is strong, and every other program would benefit from the cash infusion to up their games as well. The issue is that the Big 12 may not be the right fit. Boise is not Midwestern, and BSU is not an evangelical religious institution. They don’t have the right research profile, a big enough stadium, or enough history behind them to have solidly huge alumni numbers that executives can point to. Maybe Boise State is whispering in the right ears but being quiet about it, and will shock us all yet again when we’re announced. What is more likely, is that 2-4 other institutions will be chosen, and the resulting shuffle just might get the Broncos in the Pac 12, where they belong.


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