Boise State suing Mountain West over the conference's new TV contract

Boise State coach Bryan Harsin holds up the Mountain West Championship trophy, left, as president Marlene Tromp, center, and linebacker Curtis Weaver, right, celebrate. (AP Photo/Steve Conner)

Boise State is suing its own conference. 

The university formally filed a complaint against the Mountain West late last week over the conference’s new television contract. 

After announcing the Mountain West’s new television agreement with CBS and Fox earlier this month, MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said the latest contract — which runs through 2025-26 — would be the final time it honored a prior agreement with Boise State that paid the school $1.8 million more than other MWC schools. 

Back during conference realignment in 2012, the Mountain West made two promises to Boise State as the school weighed potentially leaving for the Big East (Boise State initially said it was leaving, but later changed course): Boise State’s home games would be negotiated separately, and Boise State would receive a bonus (later negotiated to be $1.8 million) on top of its equal share of TV revenue. Under those terms from the previous TV deal, Mountain West members each earned $1.1 million while Boise State earned $2.9 million. 

Boise State: Mountain West signed new deal without our approval

Now, Boise State is alleging that the Mountain West is breaking that agreement and doing so without its approval. Last week, Boise State said in a statement that its decision to stay in the Mountain West was “predicated on a number of negotiated provisions, including the right to separately negotiate material terms of media rights relating to our home games.”

“This is stated in our conference agreement and cannot be changed by any vote of the membership or conflicting agreement. We will not support any change to this provision and are in the process of weighing our options to move forward,” the statement said. 

On Wednesday, Boise State and the Mountain West released a joint statement saying the two sides are hoping to reach a “resolution without litigation.”

“Last week Boise State filed a complaint regarding media rights against the Mountain West Conference, however, that action alone does not formally begin a lawsuit,” Wednesday’s statement said. “The University and the Mountain West are currently in discussions in hopes of bringing this matter to a resolution without litigation.”

Boise State believes it brought Fox to new TV deal

Thompson said earlier this month that the MWC’s new TV deal was worth $270 million. That would more than triple revenue shares for members and, under current terms, bump Boise State’s share just shy of $6 million. 

From the Idaho Statesman:

The new TV deal is valued at $270 million over six years, according to Thompson. Boise State’s TV share should go up from $2.9 million to somewhere in the neighborhood of $5.7 million. Other members will see their shares increase from $1.1 million to about $3.9 million, depending on how much money football-only member Hawaii receives.

But Boise State president Marlene Tromp wants more than that, based on the role she believes the school played in attracting Fox in the new contract. Fox is slated to air Boise State home games under the new contract. In the complaint, Boise State says Thompson “acknowledged that Boise State and, in particular, its football team, was the driving force behind the new, and much more favorable and profitable, deal with Fox.”

“Mr. Thompson also admitted that the increase in revenue to the MWC, and therefore to its members, that would result from the new agreement with CBS/Fox was dependent in large part on Fox's expressed interest in Boise State's games and, as such, he understood why Boise State expected to, and should, receive more money than the other member institutions, even double the amount,” the complaint says

The conference’s board of directors would go on to vote in favor of the CBS/Fox deal and to terminate Boise State’s bonus at the conclusion of that deal. Tromp, Boise State’s board representative, voted against both. As such, the school is alleging breach of contract based on its previous agreement with the conference that says it must ultimately approve any broadcast contracts that involve Boise State home football games.

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