LAS VEGAS — Boise State’s internal conversations about potentially joining the American Athletic Conference — which were uncovered by the Idaho Press and BoiseDev in December in emails via an open records request — apparently didn’t bother Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson.
In an interview with The Idaho Press Thompson said Wednesday at Mountain West Media Days in Las Vegas he had no issue with Boise State researching and discussing a potential move to the AAC.
“I have had a number of heart-to-heart conversations with (Boise State) President (Dr. Marlene) Tromp and she’s been very straight forward and very open,” Thompson said. “It’s natural that people try to look at positioning their program in the best light that they can. It doesn’t mean they are unhappy or dissatisfied with where they are at.”
Thompson said he would expect all teams in the league to evaluate their current position and whether something out there might be better.
“There’s a natural ascension,” Thompson said. “We’ve had that in our league in the past. Utah and TCU had opportunities to go to other leagues. We bolstered our ranks and came back and repopulated our league and I think our league is in a very good place right now.
“I’m not offended by that and nor should I be. Boise State is a very solid member of the Mountain West Conference and we hope this is their home.”
Emails from former football coach Bryan Harsin, former athletic director Curt Apsey and Tromp discussed the potential of Boise State moving the football program to the AAC while looking for another conference for the rest of the sports.
Harsin urged them to leave the Mountain West in one email last August, even taking a shot at Thompson for not showing leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. Harsin wrote to Tromp and Apsey that, “The MW is clearly not the standard in college football.”
Apsey stepped down as athletic director in October and Harsin left for Auburn in December, likely slowing any potential for a move to happen in the near future.
New Boise State athletic director Jeramiah Dickey was hired in January and likely has more immediate pressing issues — notably the budget — than conference affiliation.
“Jeramiah and I have not had the pleasure yet of meeting face to face and shaking hands,” Thompson said. “We’ve been on dozens and dozens of Zoom calls and I’ve spoken with him over the phone. I’m very excited to get to meet him and get to know him.
“He basically says the same thing: ‘We’re proud members of the Mountain West Conference, but if we have a chance to improve our stature, it’s something we’re going to look at.’ But I think that’s true of the other 11 teams in the Mountain West as well.”
Asked later about the Mountain West, first-year Boise State coach Andy Avalos said, “I love it. I love this conference. We’ve had conversations about this stuff and we are committed to growing this conference and helping this conference grow. ... We think there are unbelievable coaches and players and with the competitiveness and for our region, is right where we need to be.”