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Boise State Doesn't Owe The Big East A Dime

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Boise State unknowingly bought a lemon by joining the Big East. Now, after backing out, the conference wants to recoup a $5 million fee from the school. Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images.
Boise State unknowingly bought a lemon by joining the Big East. Now, after backing out, the conference wants to recoup a $5 million fee from the school. Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images.

Boise State is suing the conference formerly known as the Big East in an effort to get out of paying a $5 million exit fee for not giving the conference proper notice of its intent to leave.

It hasn’t exactly been a good run for the old Big East during the last few years. In case you missed it, most of the biggest names in the conference have jumped ship and the few teams with any cache remaining are openly campaigning for other conferences like the ACC to come and save them. The BCS took away their automatic bowl bid and it all got topped off when seven major basketball programs broke ties with the conference and took the name with them.

Its easy to cast the Broncos as the greedy villain here, but they have a legitimate gripe. When it agreed to join the Big East, BSU was sold a choice cut of fillet mignon, but all it wound up getting was over cooked Steak-umms.

Even if the American Athletic Conference got to keep its old name, it wold be largely unrecognizable. When the 2013 season kicks off, there will be one school that was playing Big East football 10 years ago: Temple, which was kicked out at the end of the 2003 season and replaced with the University of Connecticut. The Owls rejoined last year. 

Preventing member schools from fleeing to greener pastures is something that the brass in the Big East can't control. Living up to a promise of adding other new teams, however, is something different. The Big East was allegedly planning on adding more teams west of the Mississippi River when it inked BSU and San Diego State. Outside of SMU and Houston, the conference failed to do that, meaning that BSU’s closest conference road game would be roughly 950 miles away at SDSU. The furthest would have been South Florida, a cross country flight of more than 2,100 miles. 

If you think think flying your family of four to Disney World is expensive, try an entire football team.

Travel expenses are just the tip of the financial nightmare. The conference that BSU was slated to join was a fledgling in football, but remained a basketball and financial powerhouse. That’s why ESPN offered a multi-year deal worth $1.17 billion two years ago that the Big East inexplicably turned down. When the realignment dust settled, ESPN and the Big East agreed to a seven-year deal worth $130 million. Anytime negotiations start in the billions of dollars and and end in the millions, something has gone terribly wrong.

What did the astronomical dip in value mean to BSU? Somewhere between $2 and $8 million annually. The Broncos believed that joining the Big East as an automatic qualifying conference would increase their revenue by $6-10 million per year. The reality was, BSU would have netted between $2 and $4 million, which is hardly a windfall for a school that was getting $1.5 million from their old conference, the Mountain West. 

Now the AAC wants the $5 million due to the old Big East because it feels it was somehow cheated by a team that never played a single down in the conference.

Who looks like the greedy one now?

BSU has a strong case and will probably get a ruling in its favor. Because nobody should have to pay $5 million for over-cooked Steak-umms.