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Utah State's Mitch Mathews, left, has his catch broken up by BYU's Jordan Johnson during the second half of an NCAA college football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Provo, Utah. BYU beat Utah Sate 6-3. (AP Photo/George Frey)
Scott D. Pierce: TV deal will make USU a 2nd-class citizen in MWC
Sports on TV » Boise gets a sweet deal for returning — but Broncos deserve it.
First Published Jan 08 2013 11:43 am • Last Updated May 05 2013 11:32 pm

Utah State is about to join a conference of equals — but the Mountain West’s TV deal will make some members more equal than others.

And the most equal, of course, will be Boise State.

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At least in the short term, the Broncos will probably make at least $2 million to $4 million more per year than the other 10 members of the league. Which is the price of getting Boise State to stay and stabilizing the league.

It has been incorrectly reported in some quarters that Boise State will retain the television rights to its home games. They will be sold separately, but by the league. And the revenue from those games will go into the MWC pot.

This is not the same as when BYU reportedly made retention of home TV rights a condition of joining the Big East. (And whatever you think of the Cougars’ football independence, they sure look smart for not joining the Big East.)

The Broncos now have a deal that has the potential to give them national TV exposure on par with BYU. And the important thing to remember is that the MWC will pay teams a $300,000 bonus for weekday games that air on national networks and $500,000 for Saturday games. And ESPN loves the Broncos.

On paper, every team in the league has the same shot at those bonuses. Play well, win a lot, and you’ll get on TV.

If USU has a few more 11-win seasons, the Aggies could be making a bunch of bonus money, too.

In reality, Boise used its position to leverage more dough out of the MWC. Including a clause that will prove a windfall should the Broncos win their way into a BCS or playoff game.

Normally, the big bucks — generated by TV — are divided equally among league members (after expenses). But BSU will keep half the payout from any such appearance.

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So a payout of, say, $20 million would mean $10 million for the Broncos and $1 million apiece for the other 10 league members. Which would create an even bigger economic rift in the league.

You can certainly argue that Boise would deserve that money. BYU fans can look back at the days when the Cougars carried the WAC and the MWC and never profited the way Boise will.

And the Other 10 — USU, Air Force, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, San Jose State and Wyoming — should be grateful for Boise State’s return and the accompanying stability. Just remember how BYU’s WAC and MWC rivals were always so grateful to the Cougars.

Oh, wait ...

Ah, there’s the rub. Texas’ first-among-equals status in the Big 12 nearly destroyed that league. BYU didn’t make any friends in the MWC when it simply demanded the previously agreed-to right to replay games on BYUtv.

Boise State was smart to negotiate this deal. Smart to stay in the Mountain West and stay away from the disaster that is the Big East. And the MWC was smart to agree to terms that brought the Broncos back into the fold.

Everybody’s happy today. Will the Other 10 be as happy five years down the line? Or, as they’re struggling to balance their budgets, will they resent being the supporting cast in Boise State’s TV series?

Stay tuned ...

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter: @ScottDPierce.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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