OPINION: A $300 million athletics upgrade cost will not be enough for the Broncos to jump divisions

Photo courtesy of Boise State Athletics

SOLD: Expensive renovations to the campus athletic center to Boise State University for $300 million.

For those who haven’t heard, Boise State decided in April 2022 to spend over a quarter billion dollars to add and renovate athletic buildings on campus. 

This update includes $129.4 million extensions to Albertsons Stadium, a $100.3 million Olympic Sports Arena, a $19.3 million indoor tennis complex and a myriad of other additions.

Boise State Athletics is also lusting to leave the Mountain West Conference and become a Power 5 school.

“We want to be elite, and we very much have a Power 5 mentality,” Bronco Athletic Director Jeremiah Dickey said in an interview with KTVB in July 2022.

Moving to the Pac-12 or Big 12 would be a definite change of pace for the Broncos.

The university would be playing higher level teams and have a more direct path to opportunities like the college football playoffs.

However, we’d likely struggle significantly more than we have in the Mountain West.

For starters, it would almost be unfair to both men’s and women’s basketball to be dragged into a conference with schools like Arizona, TCU and UCLA.

While the women’s basketball team did win four straight Mountain West Conference (MWC) championships between 2017 and 2020, and the men’s team won their first in university history last year, neither have ever won an NCAA Tournament game.

I don’t see the men’s or women’s basketball teams putting together a winning season in a Power 5 conference for a long time, and it would be a rough ride for a school that’s more football-oriented.

Football brings in the biggest and most consistent audience, and if any team at Boise State would survive Power 5 schools, it would be the one that plays on the blue turf. 

[Rendering of Albertsons Stadium.]
Photo courtesy of Boise State Athletics

Boise State maintains a winning record in bowl games since 2013 at 4-3, and has a hopeful future with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator duo for the next few seasons.

With that said, we’ve only made one New Year’s Six bowl game appearance in the last 10+ years. We also haven’t finished a season in the AP Top 25 since 2019 and haven’t cracked the top 10 since 2011.

For reference, before TCU left the Mountain West, they won three championships in a row and went 6-1 in bowl games.

We can’t even claim the throne to our current conference that we’re supposedly dominating. Both Fresno State and Boise State are tied up at three MWC championships a piece.

In fact, Fresno’s recent track record is impressive and could even be more appealing to the Pac-12 or Big 12.

Not only did they beat Boise State 28-16 in the conference championship at Albertsons Stadium last season, they’ve won two of the last five championships.

The Bulldogs have also won four bowl games in a row since 2017 and finished last season No. 24 in the AP poll.

“We’re telling the Power 5 conferences we’re viable, and I think they’re starting to pay attention to it,” Fresno State’s athletic director Terry Tumey said in an interview with Stephen Hicks on ABC30 CA Central Action News.

Fresno State is also planning an expansion of their own. Tumey said, “Our stadium must look the part,” and that Fresno State transitioning to Power 5 is “a real possibility.”

They are also doing more with less. Boise State’s Playbook for Success cites Fresno as having the lowest athletics budget in the Mountain West. 

Meanwhile, Boise State is spending $129.4 million on Albertsons Stadium and a new varsity center. 

Is winning not more important than building more empty seats in a stadium?

Part of being a Power 5 school is being able to host a large audience and win games, especially meaningful games.

Although the team seems to be seeking valuable wins, they still suffered an embarrassing 27-10 loss to UTEP early last season.

an aerial view of Albertsons Stadium
[Aerial rendering of Albertsons Stadium.]
Photo courtesy of Boise State Athletics

Since the loss, the Broncos swapped out offensive coordinators twice and made a change at quarterback. The season improved, but all that drama leaves a lot of uncertainty for the future.

So why are we spending all this money?

As a student, it would’ve been great to see some of this time and money put back into the student body. When was the last time there was a campus-wide playbook for success?

Once it’s all said and done, the relocated practice field and $100.3 million Olympic Center are going to eat up some of the stadium parking lot.

While individual students are spending hundreds every semester to get reasonable and safe parking, the university’s expansions are reducing the spots available.

I am a fan of Bronco sports. The blue turf is iconic, and when I first heard about the new remodel, I was excited. 

However, as one of the university’s 20,000+ students, I have to wonder why $300 million is going toward facilities that only 456 student athletes use

It would’ve been easier to make a case for investing a large sum of money to the 50-3 Broncos led by Kellen Moore and Chris Peterson, but that was 12 years ago.

“To an outsider, so much of what [Jeramiah] Dickey is doing is silly,” Idaho Press Sports reporter Jordan Kaye wrote in an article before the Frisco Bowl. “And it’s silly because most of it should have been done years — or decades ago.”

Spending this type of cash now seems either late to the party, or incredibly optimistic for the future.

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