NEW YORK — Big East tried to work a deal to keep Boise State on board, but was “unwilling” to give the Broncos the deal that kept them in the Mountain West.
“We worked hard with Boise,” Big East commissioner Mike Aresco told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday. “We explored a lot of different ways to keep them. No question. Ultimately, we were unwilling to do the things they wanted. Our membership was unwilling to make the deal the Mountain West made with them.”
Boise State had committed to play football in the Big East, starting in 2013. But the school announced Monday it was reversing course and staying in the Mountain West. The Mountain West recently re-worked its television contract with CBS Sports Network to allow the conference to sell packages of its games to other networks. The deal will allow teams that appear on national TV more often to make more money. Also, the league agreed to sell Boise State home games in a separate package.
The Mountain West also agreed to allow teams in its conference that play in BCS games and the equivalent when the new postseason system starts in 2014 to keep half the money. The rest of the conference will split the other half. In most leagues, all bowl money is shared equally.
That deal, added to the most recent defections from the Big East that caused even more instability in that league, caused Boise State to change course.
San Diego State, another Mountain West team currently committed to play football in the Big East in 2013, also is reconsidering.
“I don’t know the deal with San Diego State,” Aresco said. “That could come clear in the next few days. We’re in close touch with them.”
Without San Diego State, the Big East has 10 schools committed for next season: Current members Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida, Temple, Louisville and Rutgers, plus newcomers Memphis, Central Florida, SMU and Houston. Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) have announced they are leaving.
While the departure date for each is uncertain, it would be surprising if either is in the conference beyond 2013.
The Big East had hoped to have a 12-team, coast-to-coast football conference, with a championship game.
East Carolina, for football only, and Tulane are scheduled to join the Big East in 2014, ostensibly to replace Rutgers and Louisville.
“This group does want to stay together,” Aresco said. “Everybody wants to stay in. We’ve had strong support from the Texas schools.”
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said his league has been in touch with several schools about further expansion, and media reports have mentioned SMU and Houston as possible targets.
The Big East has been trying to negotiate a new television deal during all this membership chaos, a task that has proved to be impossible. On top of the moves by Louisville and Rutgers, the seven non-FBS members are breaking away from the league to create a basketball-focused conference.
Aresco said the Big East is in the preliminary stages of working its way through that breakup, which will involve splitting up millions in NCAA tournament revenue and exit fees, and what to do with the name Big East.
“It’s been very amicable,” Aresco said of talks with the so-called Catholic 7. “That process will begin shortly.”
The Big East was aware over the past month that Boise State was having second thoughts, Aresco said. He hopes that once San Diego State makes a decision, the realignment wheel will finally stop spinning and the Big East can find a television partner.
“This realignment thing has been a constant issue,” Aresco said. “We think things are clarified. We have some clarity.”