Could Boise State Create Their Own Conference If/When The Big East Dies?

Boise State - Future Conference Realignment Ringleaders?

The great Big East experiment is one year away from kicking off its inaugural season. Syracuse and Pitt have chucked up their deuces and are playing their swan song season this year before leaving the Big East for the ACC in 2013. Their leaving expedites a process that will signal another shift in conference affiliation.

This new Big East will see former member Temple re-join for 2012 in all sports while Houston, SMU, Memphis, and UCF join for all sports in 2013. Boise State and San Diego State are set to join that same year as football only members with Navy joining for football only in 2015. The Big East is also still hoping that Air Force and/or BYU will have interest in joining to round out the Western contingent.

The new Big East is a conference based on hope, good faith, desperation, and boldness. It’s an admirable strategy to add some of the biggest, previously non-BCS markets and teams but despite all of this, the conference is still a house of cards. Four of the most preeminent members – Louisville, UConn, Cincinnati, and Rutgers – have openly courted membership into other major conferences,  mostly the ACC and Big XII. Chances of defection(s) remain quite high as the instability of a hybrid conference remains turbulent.

So what would happen if one, two, or all of the most prominent members depart for greener pastures? What then, especially for the schools out West that left stable, albeit less affluent, conferences?

Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman tweeted that “Before joining Big East, Boise State explored ‘forming a new conference largely comprised of Western universities.’” If the Big East disintegrates by having some of its more prominent members leave, could Boise State return to that idea?

The Broncos would be in a position to create a “largely” Western-based all sports conference cherry-picked based on athletic program strength. Market penetration, or the potential of, is also a possible factor as is academics. It’s a wild, bold idea that would bring together the strongest non-BCS athletic programs in the West.

The potential founding members could consist of Boise State’s former Big East conference mates San Diego State, Houston, and SMU. Tulsa and UTEP could then be tossed a life raft to save them from C-USA. Both are geographic fits while Tulsa already possesses natural rivalries with both Houston and SMU. UTEP possesses a perennially competitive men’s basketball team.

In order to add additional respect and might to the conference a partnership with BYU would be critical. Boise State could even reach out to BYU to help them create and cherry-pick a Western based conference in addition to San Diego State, Houston, and SMU. The biggest hurdle would be how attached to football independence BYU has become.

Recently, the Deseret News published an article about how independent status isn’t BYU’s long term answer and Kyle Kensing of Saturday Blitz asked the question is BYU’s independent experiment already running its course? Both are valid questions. BYU is doing well with its scheduling (see the home-and-home scheduled with Wisconsin) but they’re still having to add WAC (for now until it closes its doors) and Mountain West teams to help round out their schedule.

Logistically it makes sense for Boise State and BYU to be partner up. The two schools have extended their football series to 2023, are located roughly 384 miles apart driving distance, and are the two most prominent non-BCS schools in the West. Joining this new hypothetical conference also would not hinder BYU’s ability to schedule tough, name-brand opponents like Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and Texas and would also help add substance to their resume when it comes to the rankings used to determine the new playoff teams.

The conference could be created without BYU but it makes it look a damn sight better on paper and adds considerable credibility.

The new league would then have seven schools with Boise State, BYU, Houston, San Diego State, SMU, Tulsa, and UTEP. Five more are needed and those five are housed in the Mountain West.

For football reasons, Air Force, Fresno State, and Nevada would have to be in consideration just based off their football winning percentages.

The new conference could roll with just 10 teams like the Pac-12 and Big Ten did for decades or they could reach out to two more teams to reach the 12 team mark. UNLV and New Mexico, two damn strong basketball schools, would help bolster the conference in that sport while adding two nice television markets in Las Vegas and Albuquerque. 14 teams could be reached by adding Colorado State and Wyoming but neither school offers much in terms of athletics when compared to the other twelve teams.

Hawaii is discarded because of the travel distance especially in an all-sports league. A re-creation of the old 16 team WAC would not be wise. San Jose State and Utah State? Sorry, you weren’t even in consideration.

In assimilating this new conference the following winning percentages with overall records are based over an eight year period (2003-2011). The numbers do include bowl game wins and losses. A nice, round 8 years is used because it includes two four-year cycles to show who has either maintained success or futility or those who were mercurial.

University

Basketball (overall)

Football (overall)

Football (conference)

Air Force

155 – 123 (55.7%)

61 – 50 (54.9%)

36 – 33 (52.2%)

Boise State

164 – 126 (56.5%)

106 – 12 (89.8%)

67 – 4 (94.4%)

B.Y.U.

215 – 84 (71.9%)

75 – 38 (66.4%)

46 -16 (74.2%)

Fresno State

135 – 147 (47.8%)

66 – 50 (56.8%)

45 – 26 (63.4%)

Houston

157 – 128 (55%)

70 – 46 (60.3%)

49 – 26 (65.3%)

Nevada

210 – 91 (69.7%)

59 – 46 (60%)

47 – 24 (66.2%)

New Mexico

198 – 97 (67.1%)

43 – 67 (39%)

25 – 41 (40.6%)

San Diego State

202 – 97 (67.5%)

45 – 64 (41.2%)

27 – 42 (39.1%)

S.M.U.

119 – 157 (43.1%)

39 – 71 (35.4%)

28 – 45 (38.4%)

Tulsa

158 – 132 (54.4%)

73 – 44 (62.3%)

50 – 25 (66.7%)

U.N.L.V.

205 – 93 (68.7%)

28 – 79 (26.1%)

14 – 55 (20.3%)

U.T.E.P.

194 – 105 (64.8%)

47 – 63 (42.7%)

29 – 43 (40.3%)

Based on the above percentages using just conference records the teams fall into these six categories:

Archetype: (1)Boise State

Upper Crust: (2)BYU

Heavyweights: (3)Tulsa, (4)Nevada, (5)Houston, (6)Fresno State

Contender: (7)Air Force

Middling: (8)New Mexico, (9)UTEP

Cellar: (10)San Diego State, (11)SMU, (12)UNLV

A simple East/West geographic alignment would be ideal but that would leave the balance of power unfavorably shifted to the West division. A divisional split using competitive balance as the dividing line would provide as close to a perfect blend of equality as possible while still maintaining as close to a semblance of geographic cohesion as possible.

The divisions would be created using the above numerical rankings to construct competitively balanced divisions while still trying to maintain geographic symmetry:

East: BYU, Houston, New Mexico, SMU, Tulsa, UTEP

West: Air Force, Boise State, Nevada, UNLV, San Diego State, Fresno State

Each division would be represented by four states respectively. Boise State and BYU could become permanent cross-division rivals which would provide for the possibility of a rematch in a championship game which should garner a solid amount or television ratings.

All said, though, this conference would be a solid football conference and an even stronger basketball conference and would easily take the mantle of the sixth best conference should the Big East crumble.

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