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Now that the conference carousel has stopped (for this season), there appears to be a clear picture of which schools were pursued and considered for inclusion in BCS conferences.
This obviously includes schools that are currently in BCS conferences, but also included surprises like the service academies and decent Conference USA schools (East Carolina? Really Big East?). Even more surprisingly, Boise State was not mentioned once. They would seem to be an enticing addition to any conference, especially with perpetual life partner TCU moving to the Big East next season.
Why weren’t they ever mentioned as a potential addition to a BCS conference?
Geographically, the Big 12 and Pac-12 are the most likely destinations for a Boise State move to a BCS conference. When the Big 12 was first raided last season, it seemed like the best choice from a football perspective to return the conference to 12 schools was to add Boise State and TCU. TCU is obviously considered a viable inclusion to BCS conferences, why couldn’t Boise State be as well?
That seemed like the most logical option, but no one has ever argued that college football is logical. Since that didn’t happen, let’s focus on the Pac-12. The Big 12 may have rejected the idea to bring Boise State in last season, but even if they didn’t, their state of flux this season means their actions are difficult to predict. The Pac-12 is a more stable conference to use as an example.
It seems like the first hurdle to BCS conference inclusion is whether Boise State can compete. Sadly, it is not. It can’t be, because the Broncos have been one of the country’s best teams the last few years (Did any Pac-12 schools receive first place votes this week?).
Money is the central issue, and that is driven by TV ratings.
Let’s set aside the fact that Boise State is a big national draw and look at local TV ratings in comparison to other potential members of the Pac-12. Lubbock, Texas (Texas Tech) is the 143rd largest TV market in the country, Tulsa (Oklahoma State) is 59th, and Boise is 112th. Boise State’s TV market is squarely in between two schools that might actually have been added to the Pac-12.
Moreover, the addition of the Oklahoma State and Texas Tech TV markets would become redundant when coupled with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma. The Broncos, on the other hand, would give the Pac-12 a stranglehold on TV markets in the entire northwest. Boise State simply has more to offer as a television draw than Tech or State.
This curious question also can’t be based on school size or academic prestige. For reference, Texas Tech does not have a much bigger student body, USC’s is about even, and Stanford is considerably smaller. As for academic prestige, Arizona State is in the Pac-12, and it accepts 87 percent of its applicants.
The one semi-justifiable reason is also very superficial, and that is the fact that the Pac-12 likes to have two-team pods everywhere. There are the two Washington schools, two Oregon schools, etc. This idea was challenged a little with the addition of Colorado and Utah, but since they’re both in the Rocky Mountains, no one really cared.
This doesn’t seem like an actual reason to totally dismiss Boise State, but even if it was, they could surely find a way to keep the two-team pod system in place. There aren’t any other viable Idaho schools, but there are intriguing possibilities nearby in both Nevada and BYU. If Nevada joined, they could be paired with Boise State in a similar cross-state manner to Utah and Colorado. If the far more lucrative BYU joined, they would obviously be paired with Utah while Boise State and Colorado would be paired in a manner that, all things considered, would make as much sense as Colorado being paired with Utah.
Let’s not act like Boise State is a passive participant in this situation either. They’ve shown a willingness to switch conferences in search of greater strength of schedule and potential BCS conference inclusion. They moved from the WAC to the Mountain West this season because it had been a stronger conference. Regrettably for them, the Mountain West’s three strongest schools have either left (BYU and Utah) or are going to leave (TCU).
This puts Boise State in roughly the same position they were in with the WAC. Instead of being one of a few big fish in a medium-sized pond, they will once more be a big fish in a small pond. Why wouldn’t they try to move again?
Having addressed all of those problems, there is one more fact that needs to be noted. Boise State is already an affiliate member of the Pac-12. They compete in the conference in wrestling, so why not bring them in full time? There’s obviously already a good relationship there, and they have more of a connection to the Pac-12 than any of the schools that are switching conferences now have to their new conferences.
With all of that in mind, why was the No. 4 team in the country, a team yearning for BCS equality, left totally in the dark on this issue?