The Bronco’s history of scheduling the big game continues to be dark cloud looming over stadium expansion plans. Back in August, Boise State announced a plan to expand Bronco Stadium. The “plan” calls for expansion of Bronco Stadium to be completed in different phases increasing seating capacity from 33,500 to 53,000 as well as other amenities for the Football program.
Boise State Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier had this to say about expansion of Bronco Stadium
“Right now, we’re (Boise State) an outlier – plain and simple, we’ve (Boise State) got the smallest stadium of any school in the Top 25. We’ve (Boise State) got the smallest budget of any school, by far, in the Top 25. Being an outlier in that kind of situation is not a great spot to be in.”
Fast forward to October 7, 2010, which saw the University of Utah canceling 3 remaining games with the Bronco’s (2 games at Bronco Stadium) in order to prepare for its move to the PacTen. The cancellation was a result of Utah wanting to continue with its annual match up with the BYU Cougars.
Speaking of the Cougars, they announced in September plans to go independent in Football, while playing in the West Coast Conference for all other sports. If you’re keeping track that is 2 teams from the Mountain West Conference that have officially changed plans for 2011 football season. Way back in June, when the college football conference shuffle began, the Broncos and Bronco Nation were overjoyed with the invitation to join the Mountain West. It would seem that joy has turned to heartache.
To make matters worse, rumors of TCU moving to the Big East stirred up in late September. The Big East was left alone during conference realignment, but the smallest AQ Conference is looking to bolster its conference. Tradition, academics and recent success, as well as being in the Dallas/Ft Worth television market, make TCU attractive for any conference. If TCU does decide to leave for greener pastures, the MWC would not be as attractive for the Bronco’s as it was originally.
So how does this relate to stadium expansion? Consider for a moment this past September 25th. Bronco Nation and Boise, Idaho got a taste of Big Time Football in their own back yard. ESPN College GameDay was in town and tickets to the game against then #25 Oregon State were sold out. If the stadium had 20,000 extra seats I am sure virtually all those seats would have been sold. Looking to the future things have certainly changed.
As of this post, with Utah backing out, there is no home game as big scheduled for 2011 and 2012 at this point, has BYU coming to town with the likes of Miami of Ohio. Beyond 2012 there simply is not a marquee match up to attract casual fans to Bronco Stadium.
Boise State has a tough enough time trying to sell tickets to fans with its current schedule of games. A watered down MWC (minus Utah, BYU and presumably TCU) certainly does not compel the fence riding potential season ticket buyer to act. Consider that ticket outlets like Stub Hub purchase season tickets in order to mark up prices on the marquee match up to generate profits. No marquee match up leaves Boise State holding the bag.
Boise State Football is in a place schedule wise I highly doubt most teams would ever want to be. The team is perennial top 10 contender playing in a Non AQ conference. Most AQ teams see little benefit in scheduling Boise State in a home in home, simply because they run the risk of getting beat and getting less of a payout then inviting the likes of say an Idaho State to play them at home in front of 60,000 plus fans.
Utah backing out of its contract to play the Broncos at a price tag of $350,000 to play BYU instead and not being able to schedule a home and home with the likes of Nebraska are both very good indicators of Boise State’s inability to draw big time programs into Bronco Stadium. Without 1 to 2 big games being played at Bronco Stadium, marketing tickets sales continues to be difficult. If the Broncos have trouble selling the current schedule to 33,500, how can they expect to sell to 53,000? It would appear Boise State is a victim of their own success.
I have to admit as a former season ticket holder the money I save by not buying season tickets to see the likes of La Tech, New Mexico State and Utah State is a no brainier. It’s not to say I don’t support the Broncos, it simply means my household budget has better things to spend over a $1,000 a year on. Bring in Nebraska, TCU and/or BYU in the same year, and then I have a reason to drop the money down.
Expanding Bronco Stadium is certainly on the wish list for Bronco Nation, but seeing big time football is higher up the list, unfortunately for the “plan” to become a reality the latter must become the norm for the sun to shine.