The Big West may have indirectly helped keep Big East football together for the short term by reversing its December decision to consider Boise State for membership in all other sports.
Big West commissioner Dennis Farrell told ESPN.com Tuesday afternoon that the conference's board of directors, including 2013 member San Diego State, have offered the Broncos an assessment tool that they hand out to any potential new members.
"We asked if they have interest in submitting it to us (then) they can fill it and get it back to us and we'll take it to our board of directors," said Farrell of Monday's board of directors and chancellors meeting. "The ball is in Boise State's court at this point."
Farrell said he expects a decision from Boise State by July 1.
The Broncos have to find a new home for the rest of its sports programs after the WAC was nearly gutted after defections to the Mountain West conference, Sun Belt and Conference USA left the WAC with only four remaining members for 2013 -- Denver, Seattle, New Mexico State and Idaho.
Boise State has had dialogue with the MWC about staying in the league instead of leaving next year. The MWC would like to have Boise State and San Diego State remain for a 12-team league, according to multiple sources, instead of sending the respective football programs to the Big East.
San Diego State accepted an invitation to put the rest of its sports, including its nationally-ranked men's basketball program, in the Big West in December. But Boise State, which is out of the Big West footprint that includes only California and Hawaii, wasn't invited.
The Big East desperately needs Boise State and San Diego State to stay in football for 2013 to help its national profile. The conference also needs two schools to fill the basic need of scheduling for the remaining football members (Louisville, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Rutgers and South Florida) to go along with 2013 all-sport members Memphis, Temple, SMU, Houston and Central Florida. Navy joins the Big East in football in 2015.
College football is moving away from an automatic qualification status for the BCS in two years. The new members would be able to compete for the Big East AQ in 2013. But losing Boise State and SDSU would hurt the Big East's attempt to negotiate a higher rights fee when its television contract is up in two years.
All of these moves are fluid, considering Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich has told the Big East the Cardinals would rather be in the Big 12 if offered and UConn wants to be in the ACC, according to multiple sources. But as of now, neither conference has extended nor has plans to deliver an invitation to either party, respectively.
That's why the Big West's decision to take a chance on Boise State and increasing costs is a bold move. The Big West, which will lose Pacific to the WCC next year, is now an all-bus league, save the one trip every season for each school to Hawaii (which is joining the MWC in just football, but arriving in the Big West in all sports this fall from the WAC).
Farrell said he spoke with Boise State president Bob Kustra on Tuesday and he was receptive to the possibility of the Big West.
"I think he was encouraged that there was an openness to this," said Farrell. "He was pleased we didn't slam the door in his face."
Farrell said this is still a long way to go, but now it's in play. The cost issue is something all Big West members would have to address but were willing to do so going forward.
"We're looking at this from a broad landscape right now," said Farrell.
Farrell said the Big West was willing to stay at 11 when it added SDSU but that was because the Aztecs were within the state. When Pacific left for the WCC, the league was content to be at 10 members. Farrell said if Boise State were added the league would probably go to 12.
Denver, Seattle and Cal-State Bakersfield would be interested, although sources said Seattle and Denver as private schools would rather be in the WCC but may not have a choice right now. NMSU and Idaho would have issues with what to do with their football programs.
Farrell said there were conversations with Boise State in December when SDSU was being added.
"But the timing wasn't right for us to go beyond our footprint," said Farrell. "They had other options at that point in the WAC."
Now, with the WAC falling apart, the timing is right for Boise and the Big West. And if it happens, it might save Big East football for the short term.