With the trend toward conference realignment for its own sake, plenty of weaker conferences are hanging by a thread — or, in the case of the Western Athletic Conference — folding due both to internal disagreements and inability to remain financially solvent.
While they aren’t a BCS Automatic Qualifier, the Mountain West Conference has started to establish itself as the strongest of the non-AQ conferences, and if it comes to be, a new media rights deal the conference is negotiating with ESPN could provide the conference with an even greater degree of legitimacy.
According to reports, the potential deal could be worth as much as $20 million per year, and would include a new conference championship game in football, which by itself would be enough of a draw to augment this revenue for the conference. With the addition of the Boise State Broncos the overall brand equity of the conference has already seen a positive boost, and the ESPN relationship will ensure that boost is amplified with each of the Broncos’ games being televised on the new proposed network.
The larger question that looms, however, is how the nature of that relationship will change when the BCS is disbanded and the new playoff system begins with the 2014-2015 season. As it stands, the Mountain West will agree to pay out $300,000 of the new-found television revenue to each school that makes it a BCS game — presumably only this season.
With a $20 million dollar deal, it’s reasonable to assume the MWC will be able to continue paying out dividends to member schools that make it to the new playoff, but as we all know, there are plenty of variables involved in any new system — variables which no one will know until they start to reveal themselves.
Regardless, should the deal get done with ESPN it’s a validation of the quality of Mountain West institutions and the programs they have built in the background and the shadows of the BCS AQ conferences.