It’s nice to be wanted — unless you’re wanted by desperation.
That’s how it felt this week when reports surfaced that the American Athletic Conference is courting Boise State and its national-brand football program.
The AAC, only 8 years old, has a short history of being bold. Aggressive. Annoying, like its commissioner, a public relations bully who likes to compare his league to all things great in college football.
Now Mike Aresco is desperate because he lost the three biggest names in his league to the Big 12: Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston. That leaves his so-called “Power Six’’ football league with Memphis, SMU, Temple, Tulane, East Carolina, South Florida, Tulsa and Navy.
He wants to rebuild, according to CBS Sports, with Boise State, San Diego State, Colorado State, Air Force ... or even UAB?
Aresco has mocked the Mountain West in the past, not by speaking specific words, but by openly putting his league on a pedestal without peers.
The man is now pursuing a Mountain West lifeline.
It’s a desperate power play to protect a TV contract and the league’s potential place in line when/if the College Football playoff format changes.
Boise State shouldn’t want anything to do with desperate — or the AAC.
With that said, let’s stash one caveat in the back pocket.
Conference negotiations take place behind the scenes, and not on a stage for public consumption. We know very little of the mass amount of phone calls taking place between men in suits, sitting behind desks, dreaming of the best possible destinations (and biggest piles of cash) for their football programs.
Boise State once successfully negotiated a revenue-sharing bonus with the Mountain West — an annual bonus that’s still worth $1.8 million more than what other league members receive.
Let’s say new athletic director Jeramiah Dickey, using Boise State leverage, negotiates a sweetheart deal with the AAC.
Yes, like it or not, greedy or gross, everything has a price.
If the AAC responds with enough zeroes, the Broncos should listen. Carefully.
If the AAC responds with nothing special, the Broncos should run. Quickly.
Based on what we know in public, there is no reason for Boise State and its entire athletic department to join the AAC.
Boise State football isn’t as attractive as Cincinnati, Central Florida, Houston or BYU, also Big 12-bound. The Big 12 made that clear with its expansion news earlier this month.
But as a second wave of conference movement gathers steam, Boise State has some leverage.
Boise State plays in the Mountain West — a better league than the AAC moving forward.
Boise State could land a Big 12 invite, according to reports, if the league initiates a another round of expansion, as commissioner Bob Bowlsby hinted earlier this month.
Boise State, as a travel partner for BYU in the Big 12, makes financial sense if all sports are involved.
Boise State has that $1.8 million bonus to use as a bargaining chip.
Boise State is a known national TV draw.
Boise State has the most passionate fan base in the Mountain West.
Boise State resides in a growing market with strong business bones.
Boise State is in a comfortable position and doesn’t need to be in a hurry.
The Mountain West, mostly passive with its actions, also has some newly discovered leverage. It would make sense for commissioner Craig Thompson to take that leverage and chase, let’s say, SMU and Tulsa. If successful, that would leave the AAC chasing teams from Conference USA and the Sun Belt.
Let them chase.
And let Boise State fans ponder a new football landscape.
Big 12 or bust sounds great, but hey Boise State fans, how about this conference alignment plan that was suggested by one reporter on social media:
Mountain West West: Boise State, UNLV, Nevada, Fresno State, San Diego State, San Jose State, Hawaii.
Mountain West East: Tulsa, SMU, Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force, New Mexico, Utah State.
Makes a ton of sense — and who doesn’t love the idea of Boise State playing Nevada, San Diego State and Fresno State every year.
Boise State’s national brand doesn’t shine as much as it used to, when the Broncos thrived under Chris Petersen/Kellen Moore and won three Fiesta Bowls in nine seasons. But Dickey, the new guy with all that fresh optimism, told the Idaho Press last week that Boise State’s future “is extremely bright.’’
The future — short-term and long-term — becomes suddenly brighter if Boise State beats Oklahoma State on Saturday night. Consider it part of a Big 12 audition.
Otherwise, sit tight. Be patient.
No need for the American Athletic Conference.
No need for desperation.
Mike Prater is the Idaho Press sports columnist and co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk on KTIK 93.1 FM every Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. and Bronco Game Night after every Boise State football game on KTIK and KBOI 670 AM. He can be found on Twitter @MikeFPrater and can be reached at email@example.com.