Conference realignment has been a bit frustrating for men’s basketball head coach Joe Callero. Like many members in the collegiate sporting world, he doesn’t even try to keep up anymore. He’s tried his best to ignore the puzzle after the rapid-paced changes that have come to conference realignment in the past few years.
“In terms of conference realignment nowadays, it’s really crazy because it really seems like no one has any valid opinion, thoughts or emotions; whatever you think might change in six more months,” Callero said. “It’s all speculation, and speculation is nothing more than a bunch of guys sitting at a bar.”
So when news broke last week that Boise State University could potentially join the Big West Conference — Cal Poly’s home since 1996, in all sports but football — he wasn’t convinced the rumor was true.
But according to Big West officials, it is.
Boise State expressed interest in joining the league, and in turn, the Big West sent the paperwork necessary for all prospective members to complete. As of now, the Big West is currently expecting a response from the school, which could come as early as the beginning of next month.
“The ball is in Boise State’s court at this point,” Big West commissioner Dennis Farrell told ESPN.com last week.
If Boise State should return the package, it would be taken to the conference’s board of directors for all 10 of the current institutional members (Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton, UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, Cal State Northridge, UC Davis and new members San Diego State and Hawaii) of the conference to review. Eight of the total members would then have to approve the addition of the new school before the team could be added to the conference.
As of right now, the deal is in the waiting stage, Steve Chen, the Big West director of new media and digital content, said.
“That’s where we are at right now,” Chen said. “We are not going to say ‘no;’ we are not going to say ‘yes’ right now. If Boise State joins, great. If that’s something our presidents want, certainly the conference will make it happen.”
It wouldn’t be the first time in recent seasons the Big West underwent changes. In 2010, Hawaii announced its football team would leave the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) to join the Mountain West Conference (MWC), shipping all its other sports to the Big West in the process.
San Diego State pulled the same move a year later, after the school announced its football team would leave the MWC to accept a bid to the Big East Conference. And in the process of making that cross-country move, San Diego State sent its 14 other athletic programs to the Big West.
Now, the same seems to be happening with Boise State. The Broncos are getting ready to head to the Big East for football in 2013 after parting ways with the MWC — a move that could potentially skyrocket the campus’ annual television revenue from $1.2 million to $6.4 million, according to the Idaho Statesman.
The offer from the Big East, however, was football only — leaving the school scrambling to find a new home in all non-football sports since the MWC doesn’t allow non-football members.
The Big West, which lost the University of Pacific to the West Coast Conference in March, could be that home. And if Boise State does join, that could lead the Big West to search for another team — an option being Cal State Bakersfield — to move from an odd 11 teams to an even 12, Farrell told ESPN.
While, all the pieces seem to fit, Chen said the conference is happy with the way it stands, with or without the Broncos.
“We just have to look at conference realignment across the nation and see where we fit in,” Chen said. “I think we’re in a very good situation. We’re in a stable league, we have great members, and I think they are all competitive.”
The Broncos are just as competitive. If the school did come to the Big West, it would bring along 13 sports, which since 1968 have seen a fair amount of success. The women’s basketball team has won six conference titles, and the men’s tennis team has had two NCAA finals appearances to go with 13 conference championships. But they’ll most notably bring along a men’s basketball team that’s produced six NBA draft picks and three conference Players of the Year in the past 44 years. More recently, the Broncos finished the regular season 20-12 two years ago, clinching a semifinal berth in the College Basketball Invitational where the team fell to Oregon 79-71.
Having that talent in the Big West could only make the Big West that much better, Callero said.
“Anytime you add a team like that, I think it’s good for the conference,” Callero said. “It raises the bar for all of us, as far as recruiting and coaching goes.”
It could also raise the bar in terms of dollars. Without the money of Football Bowl Subdivision football, the Big West is left to make most of its revenue from the next biggest sport, which is men’s basketball, Cal Poly Athletics Director Don Oberhelman said.
“The primary revenue source for our conference is basketball, specifically, the NCAA Tournament. The key to our growth is more teams going to the NCAA Tournament, which means more revenue,” Oberhelman said. “Does SDSU do that? Absolutely. Does Hawaii do that? Absolutely. They make us stronger. The thing we gotta study as a league is does Boise do that?”
As opposed to the money Boise State could potentially deliver to the Big West, the move could have an expensive effect on Cal Poly’s traveling costs. And with Cal Poly already required to book costly trips to Hawaii and long bus rides to San Diego State, after the most recent conference shift, Cal Poly’s traveling budget could skyrocket with the addition of a plane ride to Boise State.
Hawaii, however, currently offers traveling subsidies to Cal Poly and all other Big West schools in an effort to combat the high price of traveling, Oberhelman said. If Boise State were to adopt the same option, it would make the addition a minimal budgetary impact, Oberhelman said, and put the stress on traveling time more than anything else.
“If you’re (UC) Irvine, you can just hop on the 405, go to LAX and you’re out,” Oberhelman said. “For us, it is a much harder trip. We have a three-hour bus ride no matter what we do before we even get on a plane. And we’re unique in our league in that respect.”
But Boise State is still far from joining the conference. With all the potential drawbacks and positives, Farrell is making sure most schools and followers know the potential addition is far from being set in ink.
“I don’t want to characterize this as a done deal,” Farrell told the San Diego Union Tribune. “What was decided was an openness to explore it. To me, that’s the first step on what could be a very long road.”