- Brett McMurphy, College football reporter
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Boise State is trying to get the Big East and Mountain West to allow the Broncos to retain their home television rights, to guarantee which conference the school ends up in, sources told ESPN.
Boise State is scheduled to leave the Mountain West and join the Big East on July 1, 2013. However, ESPN reported on Nov. 20 the Broncos had been in talks with the Mountain West and were reconsidering the move to the Big East.
On Friday, ESPN reported those talks heated up in recent days after the Big East's seven Catholic basketball schools announced last week they were leaving the league.
Boise State is pitting the Big East against the Mountain West in what one industry source called "a game of chicken" to ensure the Broncos get the most lucrative deal they can.
Boise State has approached multiple networks to gauge how much the Broncos could get if they retained their home television rights as a member of the Big East or MWC.
Such an arrangement is unheard of for a conference member. There are no schools in any FBS conference that retains its home television rights. Still, one industry source believes either the Big East or Mountain West will make an exception for Boise State because they are so desperate to have the Broncos.
"I think at least one conference will allow Boise State to do its own television deal, maybe both of them, for home games," the source said.
However, sources from the Big East and MWC strongly disagreed and said neither league would allow Boise State to keep its home television rights.
"It would devalue the worth of that conference," an industry source said. "No other league members would allow that to happen."
Sources said consultant Joel Lulla, who worked with Boise State in 2011 on its decision to join the Big East, was retained by Boise State again last month about its future conference plans when Rutgers announced it was leaving the Big East for the Big Ten.
Boise State has been trying to leverage the best deal out of both conferences, something industry sources said may backfire on the Broncos.
"Boise reminds me of the teenage recruit who is starting to believe he's the biggest star in town," a source said. "It might be a pretty big letdown when all is said and done. Actually the sentiment of 'who do they think they are' is starting to seep into conversations with folks across college football.
"Let's remember this isn't Alabama, or even Texas Tech, we're talking about. This sorry episode is starting to make it seem like Boise is one of the power assets in college football. In reality their value is relative to the conference they belong to."
Which conference will that be: the Big East or the Mountain West?
Since Boise State announced in December 2011 it would join the Big East on July 1, 2013, the Big East has had 10 schools, including full members Rutgers and Louisville, announce they were leaving the league.
Those defections -- the Big East has lost 17 members since 2004 -- have diminished the worth of the Big East's media rights deal. Before the seven Catholic schools announced they were leaving the Big East, sources told ESPN the Big East's media rights deal was worth about $50 million. The loss of the seven basketball schools would decrease that by another "15-20 percent."
The Big East also is dealing with the uncertainty of its future membership as UConn and Cincinnati have both publicly lobbied to leave the league and would be next in line if the ACC lost any more schools to the Big Ten.
Meanwhile, the Mountain West and CBS agreed to restructure their television deal, CBSSports.com reported Friday. That development, plus the ability of the Mountain West to sell packages to two other networks, could bring the value of the Mountain West's deal to $25 million, sources told ESPN.
If Boise State decided to remain in the Mountain West in 2013, the league would then seek a 12th member in 2014, sources said. With San Diego State fully committed to remaining in the Big East, the MWC's most likely targets would be Houston, SMU, Tulsa or UTEP.
BYU also would be a target, but sources said it's unlikely the Cougars, at this point, would want to give up their independence and return to a conference.
Big East commissioner Mike Aresco has said his league wants to have 14 members. The league is scheduled to have 13 members (including Boise State and Navy) by 2015 and Aresco said the Big East is seeking another western school.
The Big East has targeted Air Force and BYU, sources told ESPN, but with those schools content in their current situations, the league has informally reached out to UNLV and Fresno State, CBSSports.com reported.
The Rebels and Bulldogs would not have interest in a Big East without Boise State.
One industry source believes Boise State is the "lynchpin" in whether the Big East or MWC survives. Another source said "it's pathetic it has come to this -- Boise State shopping itself to get the best deal. It's not like they're Alabama. These guys were a side show until 10 years ago."
It wasn't that long ago that Boise State was an afterthought -- a cute little WAC team best known for gadget plays, blue turf and a player proposing to a cheerleader after one of the Broncos' BCS bowl wins.
Today, Boise State's perception is much different. So different that the Broncos believe they control the future of the Big East and Mountain West conferences.