League, Boise State kiss and make up

Remember a few years back, when Sandra Bullock was America’s Sweetheart, and then she took up with Jesse James, who was America’s Monkey Wrench?

This sort of reminds me of the fitful relationship between the Mountain West and Boise State.

Whereas Jesse James left Sandra Bullock for Kat Von D, Boise State left the Mountain West for the Big East, which is like Kat Von D with fewer tattoos.

Alas, the nuptials between Jesse James and Kat Von D did not happen. Twice. Neither has the Big East’s proposed TV deal with the major networks. At least twice.

“LA Ink” has been canceled. So has the Louisville vs. Rutgers game.

But that is where the similarity ends, for the West Coast Chopper knew he could not come running back to Sandra Bullock.

When Boise State’s commitment to the Big East fell apart as the Big East, itself, fell apart, the Broncos not only came running back to the Mountain West, they also came running back with demands and conditions. An entire list of them.

And like a jilted lover still in the throes of infatuation, commissioner Craig Thompson and his board of directors, the Mountain West presidents, accepted each one.

Yes, we’ll help with your Big East buyout. Yes, you can cut your own TV deal – we’ll even help you sell it. Yes, you can even wear your all-blue uniforms on your all-blue carpet.

Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes to everything.

This would be like Sandra Bullock taking back Jesse James and saying it was OK if he left his dirty socks laying around, stayed out late with his biker pals and dated her best friend.

But sometimes in a marriage you do what you have to for the sake of kids.

(Besides, do you know how much it costs to remove a tattoo of the Boise State logo from the small of one’s back? Wyoming would have to drop volleyball and swimming and diving to help pay for it.)

By reconciling with the Broncos, Thompson and the Mountain West chiefs did what’s best for the kids. Recent arrivals Utah State and San Jose – think of them as newborn twins – will grow up in a happy home, at least until the Pac-12 decides to become the Pac-14.

UNLV president Neal Smatresk said Wednesday there was “100 percent” agreement among MW presidents to kiss Boise State’s rear end – er, welcome back the Broncos with open arms.

The restructured TV contract changes everything, Smatresk said. It positions other MW teams to raise major revenue ($300,000 for weekday games picked up by major networks; an additional $200,000 for weekend games) if they can improve to Boise’s level. It even has opened a door for UNLV and some of the conference’s basketball schools to negotiate a similar, if less lucrative, deal.

“I think it’s a strong move on our part,” Smatresk said, and few would disagree.

On a conference call Monday, Thompson said there have been informal discussions about Brigham Young and San Diego State coming back, too. He said his envoys have spoken to others: Houston, Southern Methodist, Texas-El Paso, the Mean Machine. Well, maybe not the Mean Machine.

College sports today are like that Neon Trees song, Thompson said. “Everybody Talks.” This surprised me. Not that everybody in college sports talks about a better deal. But that Thompson would invoke the Neon Trees.

(With that haircut of his, I had Thompson pegged more as a Rod Stewart guy – not “Rod the Mod” in his soulful “Every Picture Tells a Story” days, but Rod in his “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” period. You know, when he sold out and grabbed the cash.)

But I’m happy for the commissioner. He’s had a couple of tough years. Whereas Thompson was made a punching bag for the Mountain West’s short-sighted TV deal – and for not having a Plan B (or C) when Utah and BYU and Texas Christian left for greener pastures – his board, the MW presidents, who have veto power, who give the commissioner his walking orders and talking points and sign his paycheck, were just as much to blame.

And I still am envious of his haircut.

(Craig Thompson’s hair is like Devo’s. It never moves. Not even when they moved the conference basketball tournament to Denver, where the wind blows.)

Plain and simple, kowtowing to Spuds MacKenzie was a no-brainer. A Mountain West with Boise State has much more to offer than a Mountain West without Boise State. This reconciliation should be viewed as manna from heaven, even if Boise at first will get to keep much of the new TV revenue manna for itself.

If there’s anybody I sympathize with, it’s Sandra Bullock. I still think Jesse James is a monkey wrench for stepping out on her.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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