Fact from the past: ESPN played a major role as Boise State built its modern-day football success.
Opinion for the future: If Boise State needs ESPN to maintain that success, something went very wrong.
The Boise State-ESPN marriage is over, and that’s OK, after the pain from a gut punch to the heart goes away.
TV networks don’t build and maintain football success stories.
Cultures do, and the Broncos will do just fine by swapping the Mouse House for new friends at Fox.
Besides, Boise State fans have had a love-hate relationship with ESPN for years.
Mock and criticize them one minute.
Beg for their attention the next.
You guys can’t make up your minds.
Well, the Mountain West did it for you, making the significant switch to a new six-year, $270-million television and media rights partnership with Fox and CBS.
The new era begins this fall, specifically when Boise State hosts Georgia Southern on Sept. 5 on a Fox channel to be determined.
The curiosities started Thursday, with one bombshell announcement — much bigger and more important than losing ESPN.
Boise State has been treated special since 2013, when it returned to the Mountain West after briefly chasing membership in the Big East. The Broncos had leverage when asking to return, and the Mountain West not only said yes, but gave Boise State an average of $1.8 million in annual bonus television revenue.
A three-page term sheet, acquired by the Idaho Press, appears to confirm what we’ve been told for years: That the BSU-MW deal had no expiration date. It was infinite — Boise State would get more league revenue-sharing cash than the rest of the members. Forever.
In the term sheet: “Binding Effect. The terms and conditions of this agreement shall bind the MWC regardless of any contrary, conflicting or inconsistent provision of the MWC constitution, articles of incorporation, bylaws, policies ... or any subsequent vote of the conference members.’’
On Thursday, when making the new announcement, Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said, “This will be arguably the last contract we will negotiate Boise State separately.’’
In six years, after the death of this new contract, Boise State will no longer be treated special, which is an entirely different debate.
The annual $1.8 million in average bonus TV revenue will be gone. Forever.
And we’re not sure why.
“You know, I’d rather not comment on that,’’ Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey said Thursday on KTIK Radio. “That’s a question for the commissioner.’’
So we asked for clarification. Thompson wasn’t available Friday.
We asked for additional information from Apsey, or whether Boise State is considering legal options. No response.
We asked for clarification from new Boise State President Marlene Tromp. Not available.
We asked for Idaho State President Kevin Satterlee, former legal counsel for Boise State. He worked with former Boise State President Bob Kustra when the term sheet was negotiated. Not available.
So what happened? How did a contract with no expiration date expire? Who pulled the power move, who squashed who, or who caved?
Just how did Boise State lose an average of $1.8 million in annual revenue for Bryan Harsin’s football team, err, the athletic department?
Fact: Mountain West presidents who agreed to that original sweetheart deal for Boise State are no longer in their positions. New presidents now sit on the league’s board of directors, and they’ve been pushing Thompson for more equality in regards to the media rights issue.
Theory: The pressure got too intense. There was some arm twisting. And somebody caved.
Thompson met with Mountain West presidents in Phoenix in December, with TV negotiations the focus of the agenda. The deal needed to be closed, and final decisions needed to be made.
It may have happened there.
Or another time and place.
But did Tromp, who’s been on the job less than seven months, walk into a room with 11 other presidents — six women and five men — and cave for the good of the cause?
Did she fall victim to new-president’s disease?
She’s raised the spirits and good vibes on campus, through her daily interactions and positive energy, so did she have a Kumbaya moment to match her personality and agree to get along with everybody?
At the expense of a grumpy athletic director and his stagnant budget?
Or Theory II: Did the Mountain West call Boise State’s bluff, take away their extra toys, and dare them to do something about it down the road?
We tried to ask. Nothing.
But something happened to make $1.8 million a year disappear.
For now, under the new deal, Mountain West teams will start making roughly triple the amount of the $1.1 million in annual TV revenue they’ve been receiving.
Boise State’s annual amount of $2.9 million will roughly double.
By the time the 2026 football season rolls around, the plan is for all Mountain West teams to be equal when it comes to sharing media rights revenue.
Boise State will no longer be special.
“As we move forward, that is the anticipation, that everybody’s membership agreements would get more germane and equal, if you will,” Thompson said.
As for Boise State, because the new deal includes more money and earlier kickoff times, the commissioner said, “Hopefully, they’re very pleased with the outcome.’’
Short term, yes, the athletic department is happy.
Long term, not even close.
Mike Prater is the Idaho Press sports columnist and co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk on KTIK 93.1 FM every Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. and Bronco Game Night after every Boise State football game on KTIK and KBOI 670 AM. He can be found on Twitter @MikeFPrater and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.