SBD/July 1, 2014/Colleges

Louisville Poised To Be Biggest Winner In Latest Round Of Conference Realignment

Prior to joining the ACC, Louisville had been members of seven other conferences
After 12 D-I programs officially change conference affiliations today, more than 40% of the 128 schools to play at the FBS level this coming season will have "made at least one move over the past decade," according to Dave Campbell of the AP. Effective today among the Big Five conferences, the American Athletic Conference replaces Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) with Conference USA-departing East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa, while Maryland "bolts for the Big Ten" from the ACC. But the "big winner" in this year's realignment "could be Louisville." The school has "developed a top-tier football team to accompany the basketball powerhouse," and will introduce its "flourishing programs and sparkling venues to the ACC this fall" (AP, 6/29). In Louisville, Jeff Greer wrote UL, a school that "worked through seven other conferences" before joining the ACC -- and did "nearly everything just to get its teams on television in the past 15 years -- has made it." The school's "official assimilation into the ACC represents one of the few symbols of stability in recent NCAA news." Louisville athletics already is "a national brand, with a powerhouse basketball program and a rising force in football" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 6/30). Greer, in a special for USA TODAY, noted the ACC, with its "lucrative broadcasting agreement with ESPN and its grant of rights that locks its 15 members into the league until at least 2027, adds conference credibility for Louisville." The school "sorely lacked such status" playing football in the Big East, C-USA and the American (USATODAY.com, 6/30). ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson noted UL has "turned up the hype machine" for today's move, as Jennifer Lawrence "narrated a one minute video on the website the school set up specifically for its conference move" (ESPN.com, 6/30).

CONFERENCE REALIGNMENT EFFECTIVE JULY 1
SCHOOL
JOINING
EXITING
Louisville
ACC
American
Maryland
Big Ten
ACC
Rutgers
Big Ten
American
Tulsa
American
C-USA
Tulane
American
C-USA
ECU
American
C-USA
Georgia Southern
Sun Belt
SoCon
Appalachian State
Sun Belt
SoCon
Idaho
Sun Belt
Independent
New Mexico State
Sun Belt
Independent
Western Kentucky
C-USA
Sun Belt
Old Dominion
C-USA
Independent
Davidson (FCS Pioneer League for football)
A-10
SoCon
 

BIGGER IS BETTER? In Minneapolis, Joe Christensen reports the Big Ten estimates its member schools before this expansion "will pull in" $44.5M in conference revenue sharing by '18, which would be up from $27M this year. But "unlike the Big Ten’s two most recent expansions -- Penn State in 1990 and Nebraska in 2011 -- it’s harder to make the case this one enhances the Big Ten brand, especially in big-revenue sports." Maryland and Rutgers' athletics departments "were hemorrhaging money and had recently cut sports before the Big Ten threw them a lifeline." The Big Ten Network already has "successfully negotiated to get its channel on the expanded basic cable packages" in the N.Y. and Baltimore/DC markets, which has "increased the network’s reach to 60 million homes, up from 52 million" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/1). In Baltimore, Barker & Walker noted Maryland officials said that the transition "is on track, from the celebratory events planned to details as small as the dozens of ACC marks and logos that need replacing." The conference shift has "so many implications that Maryland has formed seven work groups to study different areas." Maryland is "counting on a major attendance boost in football -- it won't estimate how large -- by replacing its traditional ACC foes with nationally prominent teams such as Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan." As of the middle of June, Maryland said that it had "sold 20,096 season tickets for football," a 25% increase from a year earlier. It also has "commitments for 55 of its 63 luxury suites" (Baltimore SUN, 6/29).

COMING OUT OF THEIR SHELL: In DC, Roman Stubbs noted Maryland "officially kicked off its two-day celebration of Big Ten inclusion Monday morning with plenty of pomp and circumstance at the Under Armour Brand House in Baltimore." The school’s band "played in one corner near the store’s entrance while school officials handed out Big Ten schedules and sunglasses to fans and alumni." Maryland AD Kevin Anderson and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany "both briefly spoke, then each put on a commemorative red T-shirt with the Big Ten logo before posing for cameras in the crowd" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/30). Stubbs notes Maryland fans and alumni "came in droves to see the unveiling of Under Armour’s re-branded Maryland apparel, taking photos of the new uniform and T-shirts stamped with the Big Ten logo." The conference’s mascots "all gathered at an alumni event at Nationals Park" ahead of last night’s game against the Rockies (WASHINGTON POST, 7/1). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck wrote today is a "watershed moment in the history" of Maryland athletics. The transition to the Big Ten is "going to be painful in the short term, but the upside for both the athletic department and the university as a whole eventually will make it well worth the financial impact of the ACC exit strategy and whatever growing pains the major sports have to go through to establish themselves in their new surroundings" (Baltimore SUN, 6/29).

KNIGHT RIDER: In Newark, Dan Duggan notes Rutgers AD Julie Hermann, "within minutes" of the school's entry into the Big Ten becoming official this morning, sent an e-mail "outlining some of the steps the department has made in preparation for the new conference." At the bottom of the e-mail was a link to a video entitled "Rutgers Rise." For "over four minutes, Hermann addressed the move to the Big Ten and the financial implications of the new conference" (NJ.com, 7/1). Duggan notes there will be a "celebration tonight at High Point Solutions Stadium that will feature the dawn-of-a-new-era speeches" by Delany, Hermann and Rutgers President Robert Barchi (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 7/1). Hermann said, "Rutgers football is Big Ten-ready, and then you have 23 sports behind it, and how many of them are Big Ten-ready is something we're assessing and working on 24/7 right now. We've got programs ready to step in and compete in the Big Ten, and then we have programs that are going to a sword fight with a toothpick" (Lincoln JOURNAL STAR, 6/28).

AMERICAN MADE: In Tulsa, John Klein noted Tulsa's move to the American marks its "fourth conference in the last 20 years." Since Tulsa "left its traditional home in the Missouri Valley Conference, a move that saved major-college football at TU, the Golden Hurricane’s odyssey" has taken it to the 16-team Western Athletic Conference to C-USA and now the American (TULSA WORLD, 6/30). Also in Tulsa, Bill Haisten notes at the end of the '13-14 sports calendar in C-USA, it is "believed that each member received a revenue share" of between $1.6-1.8M. In the American, it is believed that TU's '14-15 "revenue share will range between" $3.4-3.6M (TULSA WORLD, 7/1). Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Tammy Nunez noted the financial process for Tulane's move to the American has "been ongoing," with Associate AD/Business & Finance Joe Cali "redoing the athletic department budget." Cali said that the budget will "rise significantly" for the upcoming school year "because of staff additions, salary increases for coaches to get them in line with peers in the AAC and increased travel distances" (NOLA.com, 6/30).

THE SOUTH RISES: In Winston-Salem, Tommy Bowman noted Appalachian State's "journey to bowl-subdivision football will be complete" today as the school moves from the Southern Conference to the Sun Belt. The school's "proposed athletic budget for the coming school year" is $20.65M, up from $18.5M for '13-14 (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 6/30). In Savannah, Donald Heath notes Georgia Southern also joined the Sun Belt, "ending its illustrious association" with the FCS. Georgia Southern AD Tom Kleinlein said, "Our university out-grew the Southern Conference." Heath notes the school's "athletic budget (recently proposed and passed) will grow" to $16M for the '14-15 year -- an increase of nearly $4M (SAVANNAH MORNING NEWS, 7/1). Meanwhile, in Charlotte, David Scott notes Davidson today "enters a new era," taking a "significant step up to join one of college basketball's new power leagues -- the Atlantic 10." The move to the A-10 has "accelerated a capital campaign at Davidson that will improve the school’s academic and athletic facilities." It includes the construction of a $15M athletic center, "as well as a new 'academic village' that will include new construction and renovation of existing buildings" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/1).
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