In my opinion, television is the number one reason TCU and Utah are moving to automatic-qualifying conferences and Boise State is not. TCU brings the 5th largest media market, and Utah the 31st. Boise State? Well, its media market ranks #120.
Other factors come into play when conferences realign: does the university offer academics comparable to the other members of the conference? Does adding the school open up new recruiting territory for the conference? Are philosophies the same? The latter is the reason BYU is best off as an independent.
What isn’t a deciding factor? How good the football program may or may not be. If it was based purely on football acumen, Boise State might be in an AQ conference. But Boise State doesn’t have a top media market or fertile recruiting ground. Conferences are asking, “What can you do for us?” and Boise State doesn’t have an answer.
Even if the move to 16-team super conferences came to fruition as many have speculated, Boise State is no one’s target. The SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 would go after the most attractive targets in the Big East and Big 12: Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Rutgers, and Missouri. Teams like Oklahoma State and Texas Tech can likely ride the coattails of Oklahoma and Texas A&M into conferences. Texas will be an independent by then.
Why would any conference add Boise State? Why would the members agree to a smaller slice of the pie to add a school that brings virtually nothing to the table in terms of media market or recruiting ground.
This isn’t a personal attack on Boise State. I’ve been impressed with what they’ve done on the football field, and I look forward to seeing how they do against stronger opponents in the future. Their season opener against UGA is probably the one football game I’m looking most forward to this fall. But unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much they can do to improve their situation in terms of their conference home.