Boise State ditching Big East, staying in MWC

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Cue the funeral dirge and warm up the fat lady’s pipes.  The Big East is crumbling… again.

Nearly three weeks ago, seven “basketball school” members of the Big East announced their intention to leave the beleaguered conference.  That crippling blow came in the midst of the league’s negotiations on a new television contract, and called into question whether incoming members like Boise State would get cold feet over a move that promises to fall far short financially what was initially expected.

On the last day of 2012, that question was apparently answered.

According to a report from Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Boise State has decided against becoming a football-only member of the Big East as originally planned and will instead remain a member of the Mountain West.  All of BSU’s sports will remain in the MWC as well, as the non-football programs — with the exception of wrestling — had been slated to move to the Big West.

The move — or non-move, if you will — comes as little surprise.  In mid-November, reports surfaced that Boise State was still in contact with the MWC about staying in the conference, although BSU officials “reaffirmed” their commitment to their future conference a couple of days later.

Even as Boise State never actually became an official member of the Big East, the university will still be required to pay a $10 million exit fee.  McMurphy reports that the MWC is expected to help pay that fee.

Neither the school nor either conference involved has commented on the reported development.

To say that the Big East is once again on life support would be an understatement.  Boise State’s move could also impact San Diego State, which is also scheduled to move from the MWC to the Big East in 2013.  SDSU was BSU’s “travel partner” in their move to the Big East, and there’s little doubt that school is in the process of reevaluating their impending conference relocation.

Unlike Boise State, however, McMurphy reports that SDSU will not be compelled to pay the $10 million exit fee due to BSU’s departure.

Additionally, schools like Houston and SMU, slated to leave Conference USA for the Big East in 2013, could rethink the move based on Boise bolting the listing league.

As it stands now, the Big East will have nine football-playing members in 2013: current members Cincinnati, Temple, UConn and USF as well as incoming (maybe) members Houston, Memphis, SDSU, SMU and UCF.  That number would jump to 11 in 2014 (East Carolina and Tulane) and 12 in 2015 (Navy).

Earlier this year, Louisville and Rutgers announced they were leaving the Big East, the former for the ACC and the latter for the Big Ten.  Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving for the ACC in 2013 as well.

UPDATED 3:21 p.m. ET: In a press release issued shortly after McMurphy’s report, “the Mountain West Conference and Boise State University today jointly announced, effective immediately, Boise State will remain a member of the Mountain West in all sports.”  BSU’s president intimated that the instability of the Big East compared to the relative stability of the MWC was the tipping point in the decision-making process.

“Without question, conference affiliation has been an odyssey for Boise State, with all the unexpected turns and changes that term suggests,” said BSU president Robert Kustra in a statement. “The benefits of geographic footprint, revenue, and national exposure have to be balanced against the changing circumstances of conference realignment.  I am confident that our Mountain West membership is the very best decision for Boise State University, our student-athletes and our incredible fan base.”

“We are very pleased today to announce Boise State University’s continuing membership in the Mountain West Conference,” said MWC commissioner Craig Thompson. “Maintaining the Broncos program as part of the already solid foundation we have established creates a posture of great stability for the Mountain West going forward.  It also enhances the Conference’s competitive and marketplace platforms, positioning us favorably in the evolving FBS landscape.