No conference can serve two masters.

The Mountain West has to choose between that sweet, sweet television revenue and asses in the seats.

At the University of Wyoming, the trade-off the Mountain West is making for television is apparent.

The Cowboys drew more fans to Memorial Stadium for each afternoon game in September against nonconference foes Gardner-Webb and Texas State than they did for the conference opener against Hawaii, which kicked off at 8:15 p.m. Mountain time.

The Hawaii game was broadcast on ESPN2 as part of a deal that pays the Mountain West more than $100 million over seven years. The Texas State game was streamed exclusively on Facebook, which pays the conference nothing for the content.

The Mountain West has three years left on the TV contract that puts most of its members’ home football games on an ESPN channel or CBS Sports Network. As conference officials ponder their next move, the Mountain West is experimenting with alternatives to traditional broadcasting and weighing whether filling all those late TV windows is worth the money its members are making.

Actually, the TV money isn’t that sweet — about $1.1 million from their deals — which is what makes this a closer call than, say, the Pac-12’s, also home to the same dilemma. (HINT:  TV is winning.)

Ironically, their situation is more complicated because of Boise State.

Boise State’s membership agreement gives the school an additional $1.8 million, approximately, per year…

Then there is Boise State. Back in 2012, when the Broncos were still new to the Mountain West and not far removed from their BCS-busting days, they were wooed by the then-Big East during conference realignment. To keep Boise State, the Mountain West agreed to a deal that guaranteed the school more appearances on ESPN and more TV revenue than the other schools.

Going forward the agreement calls for the rights to Boise State’s home games to be negotiated separately from the rest of the conference.

Boise State is still a perennial contender in the Mountain West, leading the Mountain Division this season, but the Broncos have only won the division once in the last four seasons. Whether Boise State still deserves special treatment is something the rest of the conference wants to consider before another television deal is struck.

“I don’t want to say Boise’s brand is different, but when they came off Fiesta Bowl runs they were a national story. They’re not there today. They’re still excellent,” Burman said. “Boise still has a brand that’s different than the rest of us. But that discussion needs to happen between presidents and the commissioner about what does Boise merit three years from now and how does this get resolved.”

Boise State AD Curt Apsey said the school is open to having that discussion. He also added that while the Broncos and their fans would welcome more day games, they can’t come at the expense of TV revenue.

“It would be very difficult for us to give up the TV money and make it up in ticket sales,” he said.

Yep, the school that believed it should be treated like the big national kids cut itself a special deal that is no longer justified.

Maybe it’s a negotiating tactic.

Thompson is cautious about playing his negotiating hand with ESPN and CBS publicly, but the reality is this: If Mountain West teams want to play less night and weekday games it will drive down their value to traditional TV partners. But maybe it’s worth it.

“Yes, you’d hate to have to replace (the revenue). But does it put us out of business? No,” Thompson said. “However, I’m not an AD and they may say, ‘You’re an idiot for making that kind of statement.'”

Or maybe they’re just caught between a rock and a hard place.


Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

5 responses to “No conference can serve two masters.

  1. DC Weez

    In defense of Wyoming, it gets very cold there at night. Heck, at their last home game 2 weeks ago it was snowing.


  2. Russ

    If I’m a Wyoming fan in the area, I want day games and a nice on campus experience. But I also like all the perks that TV money brings. Tough choice.


  3. I live in memphis and am a fan of the Tigers. Same dilemma here….. on a really pretty Saturday against a quality opponent (upper tier AAC or a P5 school) you can get 45-50k with reasonable certainty. SEC school it will be sold out at 63k. Weeknight Made4E$PN game??? 19k if the weather is bad…..28-30 otherwise ?


  4. stoopnagle

    So, create your own streaming network. Get ahead of the curve. Offer your content for free, but with advertisers on the MWC site. Let schools dictate when they want to play and let anyone who wants to watch and has an internet connection … watch. Maybe offer some enhanced content for a fee for your die-hards. Just a thought.

    You don’t really need the networks if they’re not giving you any more than 1 mil per school and they’re driving down attendance. Focus on making it great for your fans and you’ll realize that 1 mil in other ways.


  5. Laramie at night, except for two days in July, is damn cold. When the sun goes down and the wind hits, your balls suck up into your stomach. Day time games there are ok in September.