November 11, 2010

Montana makes the right choice

The University of Montana made the right choice, announcing today that they'll be staying in the Big Sky Conference. They flirted with the WAC and that was the big elephant in the room during this season, but it was promptly shoved out the door as the Grizzlies put them in a spot where it will be very difficult to win their 12th straight conference championship. It makes the most sense that they stay in the FCS as they'll continue to compete for national titles and always be in the playoffs.

Had they made the choice to move to the WAC, they would have relegated their program to obscurity. Even in the second-tier FCS, fans come to Washington-Grizzly Stadium knows that they're watching a team that has a very good shot at being the best in the nation for their class. If they went to FBS, even if their team was good they'd be reduced to hoping for a berth in the PapaJohn's Bowl against the eighth-best team from the Sun Belt Conference. Even if everything went well and they were the next Boise State... well look how the Broncos are dropping in the BCS rankings...

It's not likely they'd even be the next Boise State. While Boise actually has a rather large metro area of over a half million people, Missoula has a metro-area of 100,000. That's perfect for the FCS, and they get the job done with fan support. However, the corporate money would be significantly lower than most of their FBS counterparts. Heck, just look at the issues WSU is having and the Cougars have the Spokane metro area to draw from. You need corporate money to expand. You need rich alumni or boosters (read:Oregon) and you need fans to show up regardless.

Over half of Montana's season ticket base is outside of Missoula County, so that sold out stadium might dwindle if the team is no longer competing for national championships. In fact, you can count on it. Only the most delusional marketing rep would tell you otherwise. It's easy to sell out when you're winning, not so much when you're not.

Throw in the MSU rivalry and the Big Sky is just the right choice. Hands down.

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