Boise St. coach already selling the MWC

June, 4, 2010
When making his rounds, new Boise State men's basketball coach Leon Rice couldn't resist bringing up the possibility to recruits that they could be playing in the Mountain West in 2012 -- an invitation that could come for BSU as soon as Monday during the conference meetings.

The recruiting sales pitch is easy: The MWC had four bids to the NCAA tournament. The Western Athletic Conference had two.

Rice didn't sell the West Coast Conference when he was a top assistant at Gonzaga. He sold the school. Now he's on the verge of being the top salesman for the MWC as its potential newest member.

"Kids are going to look at four teams going into the NCAA tournament," Rice said. "The MWC had four bids to the NCAA tournament, more than the Pac-10, and that's the only thing that I've talked to any kid [about the MWC].

"I know I'm ignorant to both leagues. I just know there is a good rep for basketball right now in the MWC and when kids see that they're impressed. But I also appreciate the WAC. I know we're going to play in that next year and that's my focus."

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Paul Noonan
AP Photo/Matt CilleyThe 2011-12 Broncos could very well be competing in the MWC.

Here is the dilemma, not just for Rice, but more importantly for Boise State. The Broncos would be a huge get for the MWC in football, with their two BCS appearances and the strong potential for a third in the fall. But officials in the WAC have warned BSU to be careful.

The expectation among WAC officials is that Boise would join the MWC if invited, but the Broncos could be joining a conference for 2012 that might not look the same if there is a seismic shake-up in college athletics. What if Utah, TCU and/or BYU isn't in the Mountain West in two years? Then what is Boise State joining?

What if the WAC is in the position to gobble up leftovers if the MWC is poached? What if there is a better option for Boise State to join Big 12 teams that aren't selected for a potential expansion?

These are the questions that Boise must wrestle with over the coming days. Rice is already thinking that if it does occur, his seniors would be playing in the WAC and his redshirts and newcomers would be in the MWC.

"We could have WAC Boise State versus MWC Boise State in practice with the redshirts and transfers sitting out next season," Rice said.

Meanwhile, at least one Pac-10 athletic director said that Boise State should wait to see how this unfolds. The Pac-10 is dealing with its own potential expansion issues.

Notre Dame and Texas are the only two singular schools that will make instant money and drive the value up of a television contract. If the Pac-10 were to just grab Utah and Colorado, let's say for a Pac-12, then it's not likely to increase the television value that much for the league when its contract is up in 2012 or command that much more money with a football championship game.

Football championship games, outside of the SEC and Big 12, aren't necessarily coveted, according to one Pac-10 AD. The Pac-10 is also looking at how the ACC was able to secure a significant jump in a television deal by staying at 12 schools. Of course, like any of the television agreements, these are all subject to membership changes.

The Pac-10 is being proactive to be in the best possible position. But if it can't lure Texas, it might not be worth the effort to expand, simply for expansion's sake, if it can't command major dollars. Remember, in all of these cases, whether it's the Big Ten or the Pac-10 or the SEC, the current share for each member can't go down or they won't want to add another mouth to feed.

According to a number of sources, Texas won't entertain leaving the Big 12 unless it is assured that the league would crumble. The Longhorns have control of the conference at this juncture and need to ensure they are doing what is best for Texas. There isn't going to be a consensus out of the Big 12 until everyone knows what the Big Ten is going to do in regard to expansion. Missouri clearly wants into the Big Ten and Nebraska would certainly listen.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Kansas is tense about its current fate. But sources at KU say they still can't believe the Jayhawks would be frozen out of any major conference. While football does drive the decisions, the Jayhawks basketball program is one of the most lucrative and coveted in the country. The Jayhawks rate on television in hoops and to dismiss the importance of a blue blood in basketball is foolish.

Whether or not there is any sort of major movement is still to be determined over the summer. The one certainty is that Boise State has the first decision to make. It could be next week, if the Broncos and the Mountain West make the first strike. The MWC could fool us all and invite Fresno State and Nevada and become a 12-team league, create a football championship game and declare itself a major player -- or not.

The speculation continues. The summer fun is just beginning.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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