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OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
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SoCalPanther Offline
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OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
http://www.dailymail.com/Sports/MUSports/200805190089

May 19, 2008

C-USA: Could even bigger be better?

By Jack Bogaczyk
Daily Mail Sports Editor

It was warm on the beach at Destin, Fla., last week, but it's doubtful Conference USA had any formal discussion on getting more than a 12-pack at its spring meetings.

Marshall's home conference stretches from Huntington to Greenville, N.C., to Orlando, Fla., to El Paso, Texas, and back, but maybe that's not big enough. Maybe 12 teams aren't enough.

So figures East Carolina Athletic Director Terry Holland -- and just maybe his concept for expanding C-USA isn't as outrageous as some might think.

Holland has been quietly pushing his expansion concept since the C-USA winter meetings 16 months ago. You might say his ideas have taken off like Rice basketball -- which hasn't been to an NCAA Tournament since 1970.

The ECU athletic director said there has been no formal discussion since early 2007, and there was relatively little interest when he brought it up, other than the general notion, he said in an e-mail, that "there just does not seem to be any reason to rock the boat at this time. If there are institutions who appear to add great value to C-USA, then we can discuss at that time."

That status-quo opinion is shortsighted for a conference still trying to establish who's who.

Holland, recognized nationally as a forward thinker and leader in college athletics, is worth more than a listen on the subject. His desires take on more urgency as the cost of travel for athletic teams -- and everyone else -- becomes more expensive.

C-USA saved itself three years ago after it lost five schools to the Big East Conference. The Texas-based league was regenerated with six new members, all of whom played football. That was different than the previous membership.

Financially, C-USA isn't doing as well as it might, either, because of back-to-back, one-bid (Memphis) years in NCAA Tournament.

While Marshall has been aided by a developing series with West Virginia and other quality Bowl Championship Series foes, ECU has generated needed dollars in football by playing "area" rivals like North Carolina State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, WVU and soon, South Carolina.

Holland said that is more than the Pirates receive annually from conference TV and NCAA basketball revenue.

"Given two 'one bid' seasons in hoops, I am in favor of rocking the boat right now before we get in a hole too deeply," Holland said. "Our non-conference schedule here at ECU has saved us -- those local rivalries have generated an additional $2 million in annual season ticket sales over the last three years and should be up again this year.

"So our focus is on local rivalries, which we deem more important than television revenue, TV exposure or anything else. We will do anything to keep our game times at convenient times for our fans and on Saturdays although we are playing a Friday home game on Thanksgiving weekend."

Holland has company on that subject. C-USA -- still fighting hard to establish itself -- must be careful not to lose a fan base by playing too many non-Saturday football games.

A school can make up the revenue for maybe one game with TV receipts, but the damage done long-term in establishing and keeping a fan base can be catastrophic for schools and conferences trying to build below the BCS core conferences.

* * *

SO, WHAT is Holland's idea for helping create more financial stability and rivalries in C-USA?

It's an expansion from 12 to 16 or 18 teams. It's two divisions under one conference umbrella.

The 16-team Big East has functioned better than could have been expected, but playing basketball teams once a season (with three exceptions, mostly based on telecast desires) doesn't build rivalries.

There's still talk, too, that the football part of the Big East would be better off breaking away in the not too distant future.

Look at the damage that former Virginia coach and AD Holland's old home conference has suffered in basketball with the ACC expansion from nine to 12 schools (mostly to aid football). Longtime basketball rivalries have been damaged and diminished.

Three years in, just who are Marshall's rivals in Conference USA? Real rivals? There's ECU, mostly because the schools are tied forever from a final game before a 1970 airline tragedy and then a wild, double-overtime bowl game.

What other schools? Who is ECU's rival besides -- loosely -- the Herd?

"I have come to the conclusion that 12-team conferences do not work well for long term," Holland wrote. "The power conferences can survive the disadvantages but I believe that in the long term they will suffer some damage to rivalries, etc., as well.

"Also, in a 12-team conference you have a lot more 'middle' votes (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). The conference dynamics then become driven by the desires of that 'middle' group in each sport instead of by the top three, who are interested in excellence rather than just catching up with the folks ahead of them (as the middle tends to do)."

That's tough talk, but maybe someone needs to hear it and consider it.

"C-USA, as a new conference and with its geographic spread, can not possibly develop rivalries unless we play each team the maximum number of times in each sport," Holland said. "So playing the West Division teams sporadically does us no good at all.

"I would rather eliminate those games entirely and schedule geographic rivals instead <I> or <I> expand each division and let each division function as a 7-, 8- or 9-team conference under the C-USA banner."

Holland didn't want to discuss specific schools, but there are some excellent examples that would fit within C-USA expansion. South Alabama is about to kick off football with a major college goal of 2013. Western Kentucky already is there.

The Hilltoppers' neighbor, Middle Tennessee State, is another. A few Louisiana schools fit the geography. And for a league that already has four Texas schools and an Oklahoma team (Tulsa), maybe TCU even would wander back from the Mountain West if the numbers made sense.

For example, Marshall has a better chance of building a rivalry -- and get fans to drive to see games -- against WKU and Middle Tennessee than it does against a C-USA West team. Wouldn't Herd fans like to head to nearby Nashville, Tenn., for a weekend rather than sit home and watch a game with SMU on the tube?

Holland said in an expanded C-USA, divisional championships could be based on seven or eight divisional games and everyone would essentially play the same schedule each year. It also balances the competition.

In the current setup, if Marshall faces West games against Tulsa, Houston and UTEP and Southern Mississippi plays cross-division foes Rice, SMU and Tulane, who do you think will finish higher in the East?

"My point is," Holland said, "that if you can't go back to eight or nine teams for the conference, then move ahead to eight- or nine-team divisions. Twelve is simply the wrong number in my opinion."

* * *

IF THIS expansion plan is ever to take flight, C-USA presidents and ADs will need some convincing. Most members have told Holland the same refrain that is repeatedly heard from Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese when asked about getting a ninth football member:

"They say there is no one out there who brings enough value to split the revenue with more schools," Holland said.

That also is shortsighted. Think of it like this:

-- The schools you could add are not getting anything of significance from their conferences at this time, so you don't have to give them much except a better schedule that allows them to sell tickets in every sport.

-- For everyone in far-flung C-USA, a penny saved on travel across 15-20 sports is a penny earned. It's revenue.

-- Playing games close enough for fans to travel does produce revenue streams for everyone, builds the season ticket base and increases the donor pool.

-- Media coverage is enhanced by playing games that people in a region care about.

The devil is in the details. Holland is right when he says every C-USA school is likely to have its own idea of who it might want added, and into what divisions they may go.

How do you play a 16-team basketball tournament (the Big East is preparing to try that)? Maybe you don't. Maybe you play two divisional tournaments and have those champions meet for the NCAA Tournament berth.

A bottom line? It's 340 miles from Marshall to ECU. It's 950 from Huntington to Houston. It's 240 from Herdland to Western Kentucky.

Holland's concept isn't just from a $4-a-gallon gasbag.
05-19-2008 11:26 AM
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mattsarz Offline
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
Isn't Holland asking himself at that point whether C-USA should split the eastern and western teams into two conferences or is his concerned about losing the C-USA and/or basketball credits depending how the teams split o
off?

God do I hate expansion threads as much as others, but is this what we're looking at?

C-USA: ECU, Marshall, UCF, Southern Miss, Memphis, FAU, FIU, UAB, WKU, MTSU, Troy, Ark St., S. Alabama (when they make the leap)
Sun Belt: ULL, ULM, Tulane, SMU, Rice, UTEP, Tulsa, N. Texas, La. Tech, Houston

Consider these conference names only and by no means a demotion/promotion from one particular conference to another.
(This post was last modified: 05-19-2008 12:01 PM by mattsarz.)
05-19-2008 11:54 AM
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MichaelSavage Offline
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Post: #3
RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
C-USA should just split into two 8 team conferences.

East: Memphis
Marshall
ECU
USM
UAB
Navy
Army
Tulane

West: SMU
Tulsa
Rice
Houston
UTEP
New Mexico State
North Texas
Louisiana Tech
(This post was last modified: 05-19-2008 12:06 PM by MichaelSavage.)
05-19-2008 12:05 PM
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esayem Offline
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
Someone on the CUSA board said this and I agree: Charlotte and TCU.

-Charlotte won't consider football unless they have a good conference to join, and the CUSA would be perfect.
-TCU would obviously be ideal, but that can not be certain.

I don't buy WKU and MTSU on a major conference level. What about Troy? South Alabama basketball is good and they would be nice for football since they will be playing in Mobile. Nobody ever mentions Arkansas State either.
(This post was last modified: 05-19-2008 12:18 PM by esayem.)
05-19-2008 12:18 PM
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goodknightfl Offline
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
CUSA isnt going to expand.. no one wants it other than ECU.. Ecu just needs to go inde and be over it.
05-19-2008 12:45 PM
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LUVECU Offline
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
TH is very smart. This entire thing could be a set up to prove his case down the road - for getting out of CUSA w/o penalties.

Or it could be straight up. My guess is that it is a little of both. Plan A - improve your hand in CUSA. Plan B - Improve your hand if the BE calls - and get out of CUSA w/o a penalty (i.e. - I tried to make CUSA equitable and was ignored. That along with other factors that are already established to prove his case - IF it comes down to it.)
05-19-2008 01:16 PM
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
I do agree 9 or 10 is ideal. PAC-10 has a good model and BE should follow it. 12 is just too many with 2 divisions. The championship game might not be worth it since it might kill one of the top teams for the BCS bid. BE focus on 9 or 10 so round and robin home and away in basketball.
05-19-2008 01:39 PM
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MichaelSavage Offline
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
SF Husky Wrote:I do agree 9 or 10 is ideal. PAC-10 has a good model and BE should follow it. 12 is just too many with 2 divisions. The championship game might not be worth it since it might kill one of the top teams for the BCS bid. BE focus on 9 or 10 so round and robin home and away in basketball.

I believe the Pac 10 is the best overall athletic conference, and I think their model is the one to follow. I think the football schools should split and go to 10, with the 2 additions being Temple and UCF. It just fits:

WVU/Pitt
Louisville/Cincinnati
Syracuse/UConn
Rutgers/Temple
USF/UCF

Schedule 9 conference games and only worry about 3 OOC games to schedule each year.
05-19-2008 02:11 PM
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Capital Pirate Offline
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
In essence, TH is suggesting that CUSA split into two "separate" divisions and then each division add up to 2 teams. The two divisions would act as almost as 2 distinct conferences (with no mandated crossover games), but would play each other in conference championship games at seasons' end....

The benefit to every school would be a more regionalized "conference" with less travel/expenses, and more opportunity to develop actual "rivalries" with schools with whom rivalries actually make sense.....

Chances are fairly good that TCU might come back to CUSA in this type situation, IMO....and I think chances are fairly good that Navy may be interested, as well.....those two schools would absolutely be great additions......and if they came aboard, then you'd essentially only need one more team per division to make it complete......

TH's intent is not to "destroy" CUSA or anything of the like....it is to strengthen it and strengthen and benefit the conference's schools who are suffering in the wallet and in the stands due to being in a conference that is spread out literally across half of the country. Some fans of some CUDSA schools can leave their heads in the sand if they'd like and pretend everything is hunky-dory, but the facts is simply that it is not...and staying status quo isn't going to make it any better.....
(This post was last modified: 05-19-2008 02:51 PM by Capital Pirate.)
05-19-2008 02:49 PM
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
LUVECU Wrote:TH is very smart. This entire thing could be a set up to prove his case down the road - for getting out of CUSA w/o penalties.

Or it could be straight up. My guess is that it is a little of both. Plan A - improve your hand in CUSA. Plan B - Improve your hand if the BE calls - and get out of CUSA w/o a penalty (i.e. - I tried to make CUSA equitable and was ignored. That along with other factors that are already established to prove his case - IF it comes down to it.)

It is smart thinking...but only if ECU has a better place to go at the other extreme.

Even crazier: I'm slowly coming around to liking Holland's ideas, and increased travel costs for everyone might be what gets people thinking about it.
(This post was last modified: 05-19-2008 03:03 PM by BlazerUnit.)
05-19-2008 02:59 PM
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mattsarz Offline
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
Capital Pirate Wrote:TH's intent is not to "destroy" CUSA or anything of the like....it is to benefit the schools who are suffering in the wallet and in the stands due to being in a conference that is spread out literally across half of the country.

What happens if an expanded C-USA like Holland proposes only gets a single NCAA men's basketball in a season? Sending just the auto bid or two teams I don't think is going to be worthwhile and its likely that the conference would take a massive pocketbook hit.

If we don't learn from the WAC-16, spread out over five time zones from Hawai'i to Oklahoma, we're doomed to repeat it. The WAC-16's best year for basketball, which might have been the stronger sport for many of those schools, was three at-large bids plus the auto bid.

Something to also consider with a "bigger is better" approach: Right now, C-USA gets up to 24 games on CBSC and 10 games on ESPN, plus the conference championship game. Bump the conference up to 16 or 18. How do you handle football scheduling for more members with respect to TV? I'm not sure that ESPN/CBSC have the room for more C-USA nor they may not want to pay more for them. So you have teams that will likely have less TV appearances than they do now and possibly getting paid less per appearance.

Stretching those revenue $$$ in that case leads to an implosion on the conference.
(This post was last modified: 05-19-2008 03:03 PM by mattsarz.)
05-19-2008 03:01 PM
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Post: #12
RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
This is why I see Big East staying put at 9 teams in football for awhile. It would give everyone a balanced 4-4 in conference. Everyone would play everyone producing a real champion. Allow rivalries to form by playing yearly and also allowing 4 games OCC to play regional,TV games and money 1AA home games.
05-19-2008 03:05 PM
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ecu92 Offline
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
I find it amusing that we're talking about this on a Big East board, rather than a CUSA board.

CUSA has got to find a way to remain financially viable or it's done. I want to believe that the other ADs are concerned as well.

Has anyone thought about what would happen if Memphis leaves? I hope our conference leaders have thought this through...and grabbing a few more Texas schools ain't the answer.
05-19-2008 03:08 PM
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
mattsarz Wrote:Something to also consider with a "bigger is better" approach: Right now, C-USA gets up to 24 games on CBSC and 10 games on ESPN, plus the conference championship game. Bump the conference up to 16 or 18. How do you handle football scheduling for more members with respect to TV? I'm not sure that ESPN/CBSC have the room for more C-USA nor they may not want to pay more for them. So you have teams that will likely have less TV appearances than they do now and possibly getting paid less per appearance.

Stretching those revenue $$$ in that case leads to an implosion on the conference.

I don't know if its safe to assume that C-USA would be operating on the same business model in terms of TV revenue.
05-19-2008 03:10 PM
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
ecu92 Wrote:I find it amusing that we're talking about this on a Big East board, rather than a CUSA board.

CUSA has got to find a way to remain financially viable or it's done. I want to believe that the other ADs are concerned as well.

Has anyone thought about what would happen if Memphis leaves? I hope our conference leaders have thought this through...and grabbing a few more Texas schools ain't the answer.

UCF's budget exploded from $8 million in '98 to well over $30 million in '08. We are financially viable.

We need to make sure our hoops teams don't end up on the high 200's in the RPI is a good start.
05-19-2008 03:31 PM
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
LUVECU Wrote:TH is very smart. This entire thing could be a set up to prove his case down the road - for getting out of CUSA w/o penalties.

Or it could be straight up. My guess is that it is a little of both. Plan A - improve your hand in CUSA. Plan B - Improve your hand if the BE calls - and get out of CUSA w/o a penalty (i.e. - I tried to make CUSA equitable and was ignored. That along with other factors that are already established to prove his case - IF it comes down to it.)

Or
Plan C- ECU can just pay whatever penalties there are like ECU agreed to and like every other program that has left a conference to join another has done, and thereby avoid a long legal case that will tie everything up, ala RichRod.
(This post was last modified: 05-19-2008 03:32 PM by cuseroc.)
05-19-2008 03:31 PM
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Post: #17
RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
BlazerUnit Wrote:
LUVECU Wrote:TH is very smart. This entire thing could be a set up to prove his case down the road - for getting out of CUSA w/o penalties.

Or it could be straight up. My guess is that it is a little of both. Plan A - improve your hand in CUSA. Plan B - Improve your hand if the BE calls - and get out of CUSA w/o a penalty (i.e. - I tried to make CUSA equitable and was ignored. That along with other factors that are already established to prove his case - IF it comes down to it.)

It is smart thinking...but only if ECU has a better place to go at the other extreme.

Even crazier: I'm slowly coming around to liking Holland's ideas, and increased travel costs for everyone might be what gets people thinking about it.

It has ECU covered either way. If we stay - we travel less and that means more $$$. If we go and the league has not tried to improve itself - we make the case for no penalty.

If we do not go - and the league stays the way it is - then we are screwed.
05-19-2008 03:50 PM
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Post: #18
RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
cuseroc Wrote:
LUVECU Wrote:TH is very smart. This entire thing could be a set up to prove his case down the road - for getting out of CUSA w/o penalties.

Or it could be straight up. My guess is that it is a little of both. Plan A - improve your hand in CUSA. Plan B - Improve your hand if the BE calls - and get out of CUSA w/o a penalty (i.e. - I tried to make CUSA equitable and was ignored. That along with other factors that are already established to prove his case - IF it comes down to it.)

Or
Plan C- ECU can just pay whatever penalties there are like ECU agreed to and like every other program that has left a conference to join another has done, and thereby avoid a long legal case that will tie everything up, ala RichRod.

That could very well be the case aslo. Where are you at in Rochacha?? I use to live there. I knew alot of people from Pittsboro.
05-19-2008 03:52 PM
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Post: #19
RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
LUVECU Wrote:It has ECU covered either way. If we stay - we travel less and that means more $$$. If we go and the league has not tried to improve itself - we make the case for no penalty.

If we do not go - and the league stays the way it is - then we are screwed.

Just because you throw out a crazy idea doesn't mean you wouldn't have to pay an exit fee. Not to mention you're not going anywhere 03-shhhh
05-19-2008 04:04 PM
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RE: OT - C-USA: Could even bigger be better?
MichaelSavage Wrote:
SF Husky Wrote:I do agree 9 or 10 is ideal. PAC-10 has a good model and BE should follow it. 12 is just too many with 2 divisions. The championship game might not be worth it since it might kill one of the top teams for the BCS bid. BE focus on 9 or 10 so round and robin home and away in basketball.

I believe the Pac 10 is the best overall athletic conference, and I think their model is the one to follow. I think the football schools should split and go to 10, with the 2 additions being Temple and UCF. It just fits:

WVU/Pitt
Louisville/Cincinnati
Syracuse/UConn
Rutgers/Temple
USF/UCF

Schedule 9 conference games and only worry about 3 OOC games to schedule each year.

That's actually not a bad idea. The Big East seems to be the East Coast version of the Pac-10 in a lot of ways, so why not copy their successful model? I see the Big East adding Memphis and UCF though instead of Temple. The Philadelphia market is a huge market, but the Big East doesn't interested in bringing Temple back.
(This post was last modified: 05-19-2008 05:13 PM by CatsClaw.)
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