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Conference USA is seeing four schools leave for the Big East next season, but the league is "reloading by adding six schools in 2013,” according to sources cited by Brett McMurphy of CBSSPORTS.com. Florida Int'l Univ., Louisiana Tech Univ., Univ. of North Texas, Univ. of Texas-San Antonio, Univ. of North Carolina-Charlotte and Old Dominion Univ. “will join C-USA giving the league 14 members.” It is unclear how soon after '13 Charlotte, which is beginning its football program that year, and ODU, which is currently in the FCS, "would be able to compete as a C-USA football member.” Sources said that an official announcement “could come as early as Friday.” C-USA and the Mountain West Conference had talked about merging into one league, but sources said that there "were too many legal obstacles and that will no longer happen." C-USA instead “will increase to 14 members and the Mountain West will be at 10 members by adding Utah State and San Jose State in 2013.” Even though C-USA and the MWC “will remain separate leagues, they continue to work together on a plan to share scheduling, television and marketing resources” (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/1). Charlotte will start its football program playing as an independent on the FCS level and "must stay at that level for at least two years before moving up to FBS.” The school's other sports programs “conceivably could join C-USA earlier.” Charlotte had been a member of C-USA from '95-'05 (David Scott, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/2).
THE SUNNY SIDE: In Nashville, Adam Sparks reports Texas State Univ. and Univ. of Texas-Arlington today will officially join the Sun Belt Conference during a conference call. Texas State will play its first FBS season this year in the WAC and "then join the Sun Belt as a full-fledged member in 2013.” UT Arlington will “also play one year as an Olympic-sport/basketball member in the WAC before joining the Sun Belt in the same capacity.” Georgia State Univ. also "recently added to the Sun Belt for the 2013 football season” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 5/2). WAC interim Commissioner Jeff Hurd has “started assembling candidate schools that could join the conference in football to replace four current conference members he anticipates will leave to join the Mountain West (Utah State, San Jose State) and Conference USA (Texas-San Antonio and Louisiana Tech)” (DENVER POST, 5/2).
BUTLER MAKES IT BETTER: ESPN.com’s Andy Katz cited sources as saying that Butler Univ. today “will officially join the Atlantic 10 for the 2013-14 season.” Butler will “leave the Horizon League in all sports and join the A-10 after it formally seeks admission to the league.” The university will “replace Temple and become the A-10’s 14th member for the 2013-14 season.” A source said that the A-10 “has had talks" with George Mason Univ. and Virginia Commonwealth Univ. of the Colonial Athletic Association, but the "latter is on hold with the departure" of VCU AD Norwood Teague to the same position at Minnesota (ESPN.com, 5/1). YAHOO SPORTS’ Mike Huguenin wrote the Butler move “is a no-brainer.” The A-10 is “a better league, and Butler's addition, not to mention [George Mason] and VCU if they come aboard, makes it even better.” The additions lead “to more NCAA bids, which leads to more money for every league member” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/1).
Southern Methodist Univ. has enjoyed "greater success on the field and landing high-profile coaches” in recent years, but the school's athletic department “is piling up substantial losses,” according to Mackenzie O’Hara of the SMU DAILY CAMPUS. Over the past “seven years, its losses have topped $113 million.” The deficit is equal to “almost half of all tuition and fees paid by students" in the '11-12 school year. The athletic department’s annual deficit “rose dramatically” in ’06 after Steve Orsini was hired as AD. During the three years prior to Orsini's arrival, the athletic department “lost an average of $12.9 million a year.” However, during Orsini’s first four years, annual losses “jumped to an average of $18.6 million -- an increase of 44 percent.” Orsini “acknowledged that the data was accurate, saying that SMU knows about the operating deficit and approves it as a part of the university’s budget.” SMU Athletic Policies Committee Faculty Chair Dan Orlovsky said that the school's comparatively high losses “are a result of little television money, low attendance at football games, high expenditures in recent years and travel expenses.” Orlovsky: "It costs money to do business, that’s the bottom line. You can’t make money if you don’t put money in.” O’Hara reported SMU officials “deny that the athletic department operates under a deficit” and instead consider it “a budgeted university subsidy -- an investment that brings national exposure.” But budget documents show “spending has accelerated since Orsini started calling the shots.” Expenses amounted to $26.6M in '07 and increased to $35.8M in '10, the "most recent year that actual figures are available.” Orsini said that the jump in expenses is a “result of increased scholarships for student athletes.” However, the figures show annual grants-in-aid in the Orsini era “have increased by $3.26 million, or 41 percent.” Excluding scholarships, annual expenses “post-Orsini have increased by $5.91 million, or 35 percent” (DAILY CAMPUS, 5/1).
MISMANAGED MONEY: Univ. of Southern Mississippi interim AD Jeff Hammond said that it “will take years for the athletics department to overcome debt of more than $1 million.” Hammond said, “It was due to a lack of leadership. It was due to mismanagement. It was due to a lack of accountability and probably a lack of creative thinking in ways to develop revenue, such as scheduling." Hammond last Friday said that the department's debt “was discovered through an internal audit.” In Mississippi, Patrick Magee noted the athletic department's budget “is about $20 million.” Hammond said that he “wasn't ready to disclose in detail what brought about the debt.” However, he added that he and his staff “have taken new measures to make sure that the university works within its means to help shrink the budget shortfall.” Hammond also said that he “plans on looking into football and basketball road games that could be revenue producers for USM.” Hammond in January replaced retiring AD Richard Giannini, who had been with the school for nearly 13 years (HATTIESBURG AMERICAN, 4/28).
The St. Louis Sports Commission is "exploring the feasibility of creating a bowl game in St. Louis,” according to Vahe Gregorian of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Sports Commission President Frank Viverito said that the ideal game would match "opponents from the SEC and Big Ten -- leagues that St. Louis is well-accessible between.” The game "could be played either at Busch Stadium or the Edward Jones Dome." However, Viverito said that the game “wouldn’t be worthwhile unless the appropriate resources can be mustered.” Viverito: “If there’s (35) bowls, we can’t join as Bowl 36. We have to get in at a level where we don’t have to plead with the community to support the event. ... We can’t scrape this thing together and keep our fingers crossed that we can grow it. We have to get in at a solid level.” Sports Commission VP/Events Chris Roseman attended the BCS meetings in Florida last week and said, “We’re trying to figure out what the bowl landscape looks like now and what it’s going to look like. Before summer’s over, we should have a really good feel about what the landscape looks like.” Roseman added that includes whether a "moratorium on adding new bowls will be lifted.” Viverito said, “All of the pieces have to come together. Can you get a conference tie-in? Can you get a title sponsor? Can you get a TV deal? If you can get two conference tie-ins, then that makes it easier to get a TV deal and a title sponsor deal. If you know you can get a title sponsor contingent on getting a conference tie-in, then it makes it easier to get a conference tie-in” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/2).
MIDWESTERN VALUES: ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg reported if the BCS opens the bidding process "to host future college football playoff games, three venues in the Big Ten footprint would be interested.” Officials from Lucas Oil Stadium, Ford Field and the Edward Jones Dome confirmed that their groups "would explore the possibility of bidding to host a semifinal or a championship game.” The BCS has yet to decide whether “neutral-site games will be held at existing bowl sites like Pasadena, Calif., or New Orleans, or whether non-bowl sites” will be allowed to bid on the games. Outdoor venues like Soldier Field are "highly unlikely to be considered," as they “bring too many potential risks and logistical headaches that the indoor venues don’t.” Indiana Sports Corp. VP/Communications John Dedman: “A BCS championship game, a BCS semifinal, whatever those options are, that would rank right up there with the best things that we’ve done over the last couple of years.” St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission PR Dir Donna Andrews noted that the Edward Jones Dome “is connected to the America’s Center convention complex, which could host the supplementary events that would take place alongside a football playoff game.” Rittenberg noted Lucas Oil Stadium has a similar setup with the Indiana Convention Center (ESPN.com 4/27).