Boise State isn't as hard up for a 2011 opponent as it might have seemed a week ago.
Athletic director Gene Bleymaier said that while the Broncos have been turned down by several automatic qualifying schools for both home-and-home and guarantee games in 2011, the pool of teams available is by no means dried up.
"I didn't put this story out, it came from our commissioner, and yeah, in 2011 we're having some trouble, but we haven't exhausted the number of schools either," Bleymaier said. "So, I'm not panicking. I'm very hopeful that we'll find a game in 2011 and thereafter. I think there's games out there, we just need to find them."
Bleymaier didn't know how many teams had turned the Broncos down, but he knew it was more than five. Even schools that had cold e-mailed Boise State, and several other schools, looking for a game were turning down the Broncos.
"I've responded and said, 'Hey, we'll come. You have this date open here. You sent me a request saying you're looking for games. We'll come and play you,'" Bleymaier said. "And then they decline. ... I can't speak for those schools, but I know a lot of times when athletic directors do go and talk to their coaches, their coaches aren't in favor of it."
Bleymaier acknowledged that Boise State is encountering several obstacles in getting deals done with automatic qualifying schools. Boise State is looking for home-and-home games, which would mean a team traveling to the blue turf, a place the Broncos are 59-2 this decade. The Broncos would also be open to a guarantee game, but the school is asking for $900,000 to $1 million to play.
"[That money] is really what the market is dictating," Bleymaier said. "There are a number of schools that are paying that type of money for a guarantee game, so we would like to get what's out there in the market."
Boise State is getting $1.25 million to play Virginia Tech at FedEx Field next year, which is the highest guarantee in both school and Western Athletic Conference history. The only number that comes close is the reported $1 million San Jose State is getting to play at Alabama in next year's season opener.
But across the country and in the current economy, that type of guarantee has been rare and is usually reserved for games against inferior opponents that are OK with taking a beating and leaving with a fat paycheck. The Sun Belt Conference, which is notorious for scheduling these types of games, usually earns between $600,000 and $800,000 for those games. Arkansas State broke the mold this year with a $900,000 guarantee to play Iowa and will play Auburn for $1 million.
But none of these teams has the prestige that Boise State has earned since joining the FBS. Some major schools don't see the value of shelling out big bucks to get beat on their home field.
Boise State's scheduling quandary is perplexing considering several high-level non-AQ teams have been able to secure both home-and-home and guaranteed deals. TCU has some great future opponents, including home-and-homes with Texas Tech, Baylor, LSU and Arkansas. It also has a guarantee game with Oklahoma in 2012. Utah has a guarantee at Notre Dame and and will play home-and-home games with Colorado and Iowa State. Both Utah and BYU have series against Boise State lined up.
Bleymaier acknowledged that there were conferences and matchups that Boise State found more appealing than others. Playing teams in Boise State's general region would help with fan interest and recruiting. The Broncos have enjoyed some success scheduling with the Pac-10, but only Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State have been willing to schedule home-and-home games with the Broncos.
"Regionally, we'd like to play the Pac-10 or the Big 12 and regionally move east from there," Bleymaier said. "We'd be interested in playing Big Ten teams, Big 12 teams and Pac-10, especially home-and-home. The more regional we can get it, the better it is for both sides."
But Bleymaier stresses that he'll play any team home-and-home regardless of location. And while guarantee games are not something the Broncos have done consistently in the past, Bleymaier said he realizes the need to beef up his football schedule to help with public perception.
"We hear people talk about our scheduling, and the first point I want to make is that we'll play anybody in the country home-and-home," Bleymaier said. "The second thing is we're now looking for a guarantee game. In most cases, probably once a year. We would prefer home-and-home, but in lieu of that or in addition to some home-and-home games we are in the market for a guarantee game in most years.
"Like I said, we haven't exhausted all of our options, I don't think. We'll keep calling and try to find a game," he said.
Graham Watson is an ESPN.com football blogger. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.