Losing West Virginia for the 2012 season means the Big East is left with seven football playing members. Unless, of course, a new addition decides to join a year early.
Commissioner John Marinatto told the Associated Press that possibility has not been ruled out, though he declined to list potential candidates.
We all know Marinatto does not have to give a list. Much of the speculation has centered on Boise State. The Broncos make the logical choice to come aboard in 2012, because they are football only; have national cachet; and would not necessarily leave the Mountain West in the lurch. Any national appeal lost with West Virginia is negated if Boise State comes in a year early.
School president Bob Kustra has made only one public comment on the matter, saying it was "too late" to join for 2012.
But is it really?
According to the Idaho Statesman, Boise State is considering making the move. Athletic director Mark Coyle told Brian Murphy, "Before we make any move, we need to make sure we cover all our expenses. If a transition takes place now, there are expenses we need to cover before we make a move."
Let's take a quick glimpse as the pros and cons to coming into the Big East a year early.
Getting into an AQ conference. Nobody knows whether the automatic qualifying designation is going to be around beyond this current BCS cycle, which ends after the 2013 season. Why not join the Big East a year early and have two opportunities to get the Big East auto bid, as opposed to one? Remember, one of the biggest reasons Boise State is making this move is to get better access into the BCS. The Broncos have finished in the top 10 in the BCS standings the past four seasons but only have one BCS appearance to show for it. This year, the Big East sent a three-loss team to the BCS, and in 2010 it sent a four-loss team.
Getting more national exposure. Getting back onto the ESPN family of networks is a major plus. Boise State enjoyed much exposure on ESPN as members of the WAC. But the Mountain West is not on ESPN, and its television contracts are simply not as desirable.
MWC would be OK. Because of the additions of Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii, the Mountain West would still be able to play an eight-game league schedule even if Boise State leaves. The Broncos' departure would leave the Mountain West with nine teams for 2012.
$$$. It is going to cost plenty to leave the Mountain West a year early. Some have pegged that figure in the $9 million to $14 million range. There also is a fee to get the non-revenue sports into the WAC a year early, and a fee to enter the Big East as well. Coyle could not put a dollar figure on the total amount it would cost, but no question it will be hefty. A few readers have asked whether the Big East could use its settlement money from West Virginia to help defray some of that cost. That is conceivable, but the league would have to use a big chunk. Boise State is not swimming in cash the way some other schools are, so there is a question about how much Boise State would be able to shell out of its own pocket. How much of the tab would the Big East pick up? Remember, league schools are also getting a cut of the settlement. Also, how much of the league revenues would Boise State actually get in Year 1?
No acclimation period. Make no mistake, there is going to be a huge amount of pressure on Boise State when it joins the Big East. The biggest knock against the Broncos is the middling schedule they have played. Now that they are in a better conference, folks are going to want to see whether they can continue to win 10-12 games a season. If you are Chris Petersen, do you want to do that with a rookie starting quarterback and only six starters returning? Or would you rather have a much more experienced team make its foray into AQ territory?
Why rush? Boise State would be doing the Big East a huge favor if it moved a year early. How much of a helping hand is the Big East willing to lend? From the Boise State perspective, you have got to push for the Big East to cover all the expenses, or maybe even waive the entry fee into the Big East. To make this move work, the Big East is going to need to make it worthwhile for the Broncos.