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Boise State to join Mountain West in 2011

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BOISE, Idaho (AP)

Boise State on Friday accepted an invitation to join the Mountain West Conference as the two-time Fiesta Bowl winner seeks out a league that's a better launching pad into lucrative bowl games.

Boise State, now with the Western Athletic Conference, would become the Mountain West Conference's 10th member. The move would be effective July 1, 2011.

The announcement is part of a massive conference shuffle nationwide, where leagues like the Pac-10 have lured Colorado and Nebraska seeks membership in the Big Ten.

As Boise State aims to secure a clearer path to Bowl Championship Series games worth millions, Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson said his league is boosting its strength by adding a football program that's captured the nation's imagination, and prime-time television exposure. The league's main goal is to make a better case to become the seventh college football conference awarded an automatic BCS postseason berth.

"It's my No. 1 goal, and I think I share it with members," Thompson said during a conference call. "We are going to try to challenge, and try to position ourselves as the seventh automatic qualifying conference."

In its two BCS bowl appearances so far, Boise State beat TCU, a Mountain West member, in the Fiesta Bowl in January and it scored an 43-42 overtime upset over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

Boise State has also dominated the WAC, compiling a 49-4 record and winning three WAC titles in four years under Bronco coach Chris Petersen.

Thompson said Colorado's Pac-10 jump on Thursday was the catalyst for the Mountain West to move quickly to grab Boise State.

He added there's still discussion among Mountain West university presidents on whether the league should remain at 10 schools, or expand to 12 or even 16, to boost its BCS chances.

"This is a game of musical chairs," Thompson said. "People want to have a seat when the music stops."

Boise State must pay an entry fee to get into the conference; Thompson said the sum was "between BSU and ourselves." He expects to readjust his conference's television package with CBS Sports and Versus to reflect BSU's inclusion starting in 2011.

Boise State president Bob Kustra said the invitation, backed unanimously by Mountain West university presidents, shows Boise State has demonstrated academic and athletic success.

"This move is in the best interests of Boise State's future, and the university is excited to be part of one of the nation's most outstanding conferences," Kustra said.

An advantage for Boise State will be travel time. In the WAC, the team travels to Hawaii and Louisiana.

The Mountain West Conference is more concentrated. Boise State joins the Air Force Academy, Brigham Young, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV, Utah and Wyoming.

"Membership in the Mountain West Conference is a milestone moment for the entire Bronco sports program," said Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier. "The new alignment will help our student-athletes by minimizing distant travel and developing more intermountain competition."

Dan Hawkins, head coach at Boise State until jumping to Colorado in 2006, said he doesn't think the Mountain West is done adding teams as college football completes its current reshuffling.

"We'll see how that whole thing shakes out and what happens to other teams in the Big 12," Hawkins said. "There might be some other teams from...the Sun Belt, the Big 12, or somebody melded in there to complete the roster."

Thompson all but ruled out adding more teams from the WAC.

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