Boise State backed out of a commitment to join the Big East in order to stay in the Mountain West on Monday. San Diego State could be next to reverse course, and that could start yet another shake-up for the conference.
"The benefits of geographic footprint, revenue and national exposure have to be balanced against the changing circumstances of conference realignment," Boise State president Robert Kustra said in a statement released by the school.
Boise State still must pay the exit fee of $5 million. (TCU had to do the same when it backed out of a commitment to join in order to go to the Big 12). But the Mountain West said it will help do so.
The Big East had been set to have 12 football schools, including USF, enough to stage its first title game. And while not releasing a schedule, the conference had announced who would play in each of its two divisions.
"We are disappointed," commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement the league released.
Boise State and San Diego State were scheduled to leave the Mountain West for the Big East next season for football only. They joined because the Big East's champion, unlike the Mountain West's, automatically played in a BCS game.
But under the four-team, six-game playoff system that debuts after the 2014 season, the Big East's champ does not earn a spot in a big-money game. Instead, one team from among the Big East, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt earns a spot.
In addition, recent defections, including Louisville to the ACC and the seven basketball-only schools to a conference to be formed later, further hurt the Big East's prospects of a big TV contract. Both factors made Boise State reconsider its future.
As a result, the Broncos reached a deal with the Mountain West that lets them cash in on their popular and perennially powerful program.
The Mountain West recently restructured its deal with CBS Sports Network to allow the conference to sell games to other networks. The deal, which runs through 2015-16, will net a $300,000 bonus for schools that appear on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, CBS or Fox and an additional $200,000 if those games take place on a Saturday.
But under its deal with the Mountain West, Boise State home games will not be part of the current or future conference TV deals. They will be sold separately.
Also, Boise State will keep 50 percent of any revenue from the BCS or playoff system instead of the conference sharing it equally. And Boise State can wear its blue uniforms while playing on its blue turf field. The Mountain West previously prohibited that.
For the Big East, Boise State's reversal is another blow, and more could come.
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said there have been no formal talks with San Diego State but members of the conference have reached out and there is mutual interest.
"We will continue to evaluate the situation and make decisions based on the best interest of the San Diego State athletic department and the university overall," San Diego State athletic director Jim Sterk said in a statement released by the school.
And the Mountain West, which has 11 schools after Boise State's rejoining, might not stop with the Aztecs. Three Texas schools — UTEP, SMU and Houston — have shown interest in joining, cbssports.com reported. SMU and Houston are set to join the Big East this fall. UTEP is in C-USA.
Thompson sees his league having as many members as his board of directors wants.
"I think everything is on the table," he said. "Long term is relative."
Central Florida and Memphis also are still set to leave C-USA for the Big East in 2013. In 2014, Tulane is set to join for all sports and East Carolina for football only. In 2015, Navy is set to join for football only.