The year was 2003, and Boise State fans were searching for any bit of news that would point to an invite for their beloved Broncos into the up and coming Mountain West Conference. However, those dreams were not realized.
Instead, the news broke in January of 2004 that TCU was invited to be the newest member of the MWC. This, even after BSU beat the Horned Frogs in the Plains Capital Fort Worth Bowl 34-31 just two weeks earlier. However, everyone knows there is far more to conference expansion than just wins and losses.
Many fans of the Broncos were disappointed, but they didn't give up hope.
As the years went on, Boise State continued to chase the dream of being a member in the seemingly pioneering conference. A conference at the time which included BYU, Utah, San Diego State, Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV, Wyoming and TCU.
However, the conservative approach the MWC took in the area of expansion and the perceived disregard for Boise State made it appear that the Broncos would never be invited. That changed of course, but only after the conference began to unravel.
When Boise State was asked to become a member, it seemed like the MWC did so begrudgingly and out of desperation. The horrible television deal and rumblings of the possible departure of BYU had the Mountain West suddenly in an expansion mood.
In 2010, the Broncos were finally invited to the MWC. However, soon after the invite was celebrated, Utah and TCU bolted for other conferences and BYU announced they would be seeking football independence.
To add insult to injury---as part of becoming a member---Boise State was forced to give up blue-on-blue uniforms for conference home games because some in the conference felt it was an unfair advantage. That did not sit well with many BSU fans.
After a year in the MWC, it was obvious that the future wasn't very bright for the Broncos if they remained a member. The television deal provided little revenue and access to the BCS was limited. That's why when the BCS Big East came calling it was a no brainer. It meant more money, more exposure and greater access to the big dance.
Then, the Big East began to shrink rapidly, and with it all of the advantages the Broncos were seeking. It was deja vu all over again for Boise State and their fans.
Re-enter the Mountain West Conference into the picture.
After reports of Colorado State and New Mexico looking to start a new conference and the Big East talking to UNLV and Fresno State about possible membership, the commissioner of the Mountain West, Craig Thompson, was placed between a rock and a very hard place.
However, the pressure on Thompson seemed to give him the motivation, creativity and leverage needed to get some things done that needed to happen.
First---with the apparent, imminent collapse of the MWC---Thompson was able to renegotiate the television deal with CBS. This provided the foundation for the return of the Broncos, and it helps every team in the Mountain West.
Next, because Boise State had officially left the MWC, they are able to come back into the conference without being bound to the current TV deal. This helped them come up with a brand new and extremely creative approach to television coverage and revenue.
Finally, with desperation in the air, commissioner Thompson proved that he can be aggressive. He pursued the Broncos relentlessly and came up with a deal that benefits the conference, its members and Boise State.
Boise State pursued the MWC for years, but now the conference actually pursued the Broncos. To quote a song by the rock band Cinderella, which is quite appropriate when you think about it, "don't know what you got till it's gone."
Thompson and the rest of the Mountain West are no doubt happy to have the Broncos back, and with the new deal, the feeling should be mutual.
So, where does the MWC go from here?
With the new television revenue distribution in place, BYU should be as aggressively pursued as the Broncos were. Commissioner Thompson seems to have his creative cap on, so he should keep the ball rolling.
BYU will need other concessions involving re-broadcasts of games on BYU TV, and their current television deal would have to be approached as a separate package similar to what Boise State now has.
Thompson could also help himself and the conference with some type of good-will tour through Idaho, Utah and probably every other MWC state.
Many Boise State and BYU fans don't hold the commissioner in the highest regard, but with a brand new start comes a big opportunity.
Pride is a horrible thing, but if all parties involved are willing to set it aside, the new Mountain West could become the conference it always wanted to be. However, it will have to start with the leadership of the MWC and that starts with commissioner Thompson.
He seems to be doing some very creative and beneficial things right now. Of course, he has a lot of help, but he is the face of the conference. If he were to reach out to schools and their fans with a new vision and creative plan of action to become a premier conference, many would certainly give him and the conference a fresh start.
The best of the rest.
The battle right now among schools outside of the "Big Five" conferences, which include the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC, is which conference will become number six?
Whichever conference establishes itself as the next one on the list probably has the clout to land some decent TV revenue and has the inside track to the new playoff system.
The highest ranked team from the "other five" conferences, which include the MWC, Big East, C-USA, MAC and Sun Belt will get the automatic bid to a lucrative "BCS 2.0" bowl game starting in 2014.
With the Broncos, the MWC has a good start. But, getting San Diego State back and adding BYU would go a long way in making it the conference the most respected outside of the top five. But, it wouldn't have to stop there.
If those schools were added, it would give the MWC 13 football teams and they would certainly want to add at least one more. Houston, SMU, Tulsa and UTEP are all possible additions.
Of those, SMU might actually be the best school to add. However, if the MWC wants to be extremely aggressive they could go with 16 teams and add three of those four. That would make the conference by far the best of the rest.
It would also bring stability in an age of instability. It would also make a good football---and very good basketball conference---even better. One more thing it would do is gobble up some valuable television markets, which would bring considerable value when the new TV deal is brokered.
Second chances shouldn't be squandered.
A "do-over" in life is rare at best. However, the MWC seems to have been given such a gift.
There is only one premier conference in the western United States, and that is the Pac-12. Of all the geographical areas where another conference could emerge into the ranks of the elite, the Mountain West sits in a very good position.
Why do you think the Big East looked west for its expansion?There is a considerable amount of potential west of the Mississippi to grow and expand.
Could the MWC ever rival something like the Pac-12?
Probably not, but with a creative approach and added stability, the Mountain West could rise to a premier conference level some day. It missed that opportunity once by letting TCU, Utah, BYU and BSU leave for greener pastures.
Two of them will never return, but Boise State is back and BYU could be brought back with the right conditions.
No matter what happens, the reset button has been pushed and the MWC has another opportunity to build something special.
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