BYU football: Proximity, tradition, realignment make for intriguing set of matchups with Boise State

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 16 2011 8:39 p.m. MST

The story of Boise State's meteoric rise to prominence is nothing short of remarkable. Until 1968, the school was a junior college, then moved up to NAIA status, then to NCAA status as part of the Big Sky Conference in 1970. The Broncos began competing as a Division II program in 1970 and were elevated to Division I-AA status (now Football Championship Subdivision) in 1978. It wasn't until 1996 that Boise State jumped into the Big West Conference and joined Division I-A status (now Football Bowl Subdivision).

In 2001, the Broncos, and their signature blue turf, became a member of the Western Athletic Conference and immediately started dominating that league, much in the same way BYU dominated the WAC in the late 1970s and '80s. Since 2006, Boise State has posted a 59-3 record, with two undefeated seasons and a pair of BCS appearances, including its memorable overtime victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

When the Broncos decided to leave the WAC for the Mountain West Conference in the summer of 2010, it appeared they would start up a rivalry with BYU — until the Cougars opted to go independent.

BYU and ESPN formed an unofficial partnership in the 1980s and '90s, when the Cougars played memorable games on the network that delivered good television ratings. When the MWC formed its own network, BYU rarely appeared on ESPN, and Boise State essentially replaced BYU as an ESPN darling, as the Broncos appeared frequently on ESPN. But Boise State's departure from the WAC to the MWC opened the door for BYU to go independent and fill ESPN's programming needs.

It figures that ESPN loves the fact the Cougars and Broncos will be playing for the next 12 seasons.

And in a turbulent college football world, a BYU-Boise State partnership could be mutually beneficial, whether they are members of the same conference or not.

email: jeffc@desnews.com

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