Mountain West Officially Welcomes Boise State
July 1, 2011
MW Senior Writer
There may be change coming to the Mountain West neighborhood, but the new kid on the block is in little need of a formal introduction.
Boise State University, which in recent years has taken up residence with college football's elite, officially joined the Mountain West on Friday. The Broncos, who finished with a mark of 12-1 last season and a ranking of No. 7 in the in the USA Today Coaches' poll and No. 9 in the Associated Press poll, enter the league having spent have spent 37 straight weeks ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation.
Yet football is far from the university's sole focus. Since 1990, BSU has had 11 faculty members earn Idaho Professor of the Year awards. With an enrollment of nearly 20,000, it has twice been named by U.S. News & World Report as one of the up-and-coming universities in the nation. Its grant funding has almost tripled since 2004 to more than $50 million.
"Both athletically and academically, Boise State University is one of the fastest-growing institutions in the country," said Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson. "Its recent track record, mostly chronicled in football, is just a part of their story."
Yet it's a part that's difficult to ignore. In 2010, the Broncos finished ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation for the third time since 2006. BSU, which opened last season ranked No. 3 in the USA Today Coaches' poll and No. 5 in the AP poll, climbed to unprecedented heights midway through the campaign, achieving a ranking of No. 2 in both polls.
The Broncos, who won five straight Western Athletic titles from 2002-2006, finished unbeaten in 2006 (13-0) and 2009 (14-0), performances that culminated with Top 5 rankings in the AP poll on both occasions.
In the Mountain West, which officially began operations on July 1, 1999, Boise State will join Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV and Wyoming.
"The Mountain West is a young and dynamic conference that reflects our up-and-coming reputation," said Boise State President Bob Kustra. "We are excited by the quality of athletic competition in the Intermountain West, the academic affiliation with universities known among the finest in the nation, and the future opportunity to be reunited with some of our past conference members."
Mountain West teams enjoyed an outstanding year in 2010-11. For the third consecutive year, the MW sent a record five football teams to bowl games, posting the best win percentage among the 11 FBS conferences. The Mountain West finished with a 4-1 (.800) mark in postseason play and claimed the 2010-11 Bowl Challenge Cup, becoming the only conference to win the trophy four times since the award's inception in 2002-03.
Two MW football teams were ranked in the final BCS Standings and USA Today/ESPN Coaches polls for the third straight year. TCU's No. 3 BCS ranking marked the highest finish by a non-automatic-qualifying team in the final BCS Standings, surpassing the Horned Frogs' No. 4 ranking in 2009. The Horned Frogs' automatic bid to the Rose Bowl marked the MW's third straight BCS bowl game appearance, and fourth overall since 2004. The MW set a record for attendance with 1.86 million fans coming to football games in the 2010 season.
Three men's basketball teams represented the Mountain West in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, marking the 11th time in the last 12 years the Conference has sent multiple teams to the Big Dance. Regular season co-champion San Diego State captured the MW Tournament title to earn the league's automatic bid, while MW co-regular-season champion BYU was joined by UNLV in receiving at-large invitations. San Diego State and BYU advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, the first time the league had multiple teams make the round.
The 2010-11 season marked the second straight year the Mountain West had men's basketball teams ranked in the final Top 25 polls. Overall, the league had three different teams ranked in the national Top 25 polls at some point during the season for the second straight year. A league record 1.32 million fans came through the turnstiles, ranking the Mountain West sixth in the nation in attendance.
Under the direction of first-year men's basketball coach Leon Rice, Boise State last season finished with a mark of 22-13, advancing to the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational. The program's win total was seven more than in 2009-10 and marked the fifth-largest turnaround in school history.
"From our perspective, this is raising the bar," said Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier. "Anytime you can do that and associate yourself with high-quality institutions and colleagues, there's no question that it's beneficial to our university, to our athletic department and to the entire community."