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Will Boise State Join the AAC?

Boise State is in a financial battle with the Mountain West, leaving the door open for the AAC to come calling.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 06 Marshall at Boise State Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Boise State is not happy with the Mountain West’s new media deal. It seems strange, to have a program upset that the majority of the conference will be making about triple their current revenue. Boise State, meanwhile, will be making about double.

Here’s the issue. The Mountain West says this will be the last media deal where Boise State can negotiate the media rights for their home games separately. Essentially, the Broncos won’t be able to make more than their Mountain West peers anymore, despite being the largest TV draw in the conference.

That didn’t sit well with Boise State, who agreed to stay in the Mountain West instead of leaving for the Big East (now American Athletic Conference) because of this agreement. They’ve filed a formal complaint, and what has been described as a lawsuit against the conference over this.

Now, I’m not a lawyer, or legal expert. I won’t pretend to be one. From my understanding, if this goes far enough, Boise State will win over the conference.

Boise State likes that the Mountain West gives them preferential treatment, and has an easy path to winning the conference every season. That should make going to the NY6 easier, as the Broncos’ in-conference schedule is easier than the AAC, but their conference is still more respected than the Sun Belt or Conference USA.

However, they haven’t actually gotten to a NY6 Bowl since 2014. In the past 5 seasons, the NY6 bid has gone to an AAC team. So, if you then take away their extra money, the frustration in Boise will bubble over.

As for the Mountain West, Boise State is where their bread has been buttered. That doesn’t change the fact that the other member schools are sick of Boise State making more money. That extra money gives them a competitive advantage.

There’s a chance these two are heading for a split.

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco should be on the phone now. Aresco should not let Boise State go independent. He should not wait, and see where the pieces fall. He should give Boise State an out right now.

Coming to the AAC, Boise State would immediately be making more money than even the new Mountain West deal, with their $1.8 million bonus. Yes, they wouldn’t get to negotiate their own TV contract for home games in the AAC, but the $7 million annual payout AAC schools receive would probably make them overlook that.

As for the AAC, this would make the Power 6 a reality. They would be more than a couple steps ahead of any other G5 conference. By some metrics, like Bill Connelly’s SP+, they’d even be ranked ahead of the ACC.

Furthermore, there’d be room to renegotiate the media deal. As most of the annual $7 million is for football, you could expect that number to go up for the AAC.

For those two basic reasons the AAC and Boise State would be a great fit, and the conference should be going after them right now.

Now, for Boise State, there are a couple of disadvantages.

The travel would be very difficult for Boise State. They’d have to cross the Mississippi River for multiple games each season. Tulsa, about 1,500 miles away, would be the closest conference opponent.

Furthermore, the Broncos have no traditional rivals with AAC teams. This means that local interest in their games could take a hit the same way it did for UConn.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 08 UConn at Boise State
Out with the UConn and in with the Boise State?
Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If Boise State wins its litigation then there is little reason for them to leave the Mountain West. They’ll keep their competitive advantage. Therefore, they’ll keep a relatively easy path to the NY6.

As they’ll likely win, it is likely that no change will come. However, if the AAC gets into Boise State’s heads now they give them an option if they want out completely. They give Boise State a shot at more money.

The AAC also gives Boise State leverage against the Mountain West. If there’s one thing about leverage, eventually it gives out. Eventually, the Mountain West could call Boise State’s bluff. Then, they’d almost have to join the AAC.

So, it’s unlikely Boise State leaves the Mountain West for the American Athletic Conference anytime soon. That doesn’t mean the AAC shouldn’t be trying to poach them while they’re in a dispute with the Mountain West.