The seven Catholic, non-FBS, Big East schools met with Commissioner Mike Aresco on Sunday "to express their concerns for the direction of the conference," and the meeting "ultimately could lead to them splitting from the Big East's football members," according to sources cited by Katz & McMurphy of ESPN.com. Sources said that the N.Y. meeting was the "first among the seven schools," a group that includes Marquette, DePaul, St. John's, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova. Sources added that the schools "discussed a number of options but most importantly wanted to have 'lots of dialogue to better understand the best course of action for the future.'" A source said that "no decision was made on what future action to take." Katz & McMurphy write at issue is "whether the Big East basketball-only schools have the power to dissolve the league, and retain all the assets and brand name." One source said that until July 1, the seven schools "have the majority votes and the necessary three-fourths to have controlling power." There are only three remaining football members -- Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida -- but a number of sources "couldn't confirm whether Temple, which is a football-only member this season, has a controlling vote." At Sunday's meeting, "which was earlier reported by AJerseyGuy.com, the seven basketball-only schools wanted to secure the best possible television deal." Aresco was there to "soothe any concerns about the prospects of a new deal." The "problem for the Catholic seven would be that if they were to venture off without taking the assets and brand name, they would forfeit all the NCAA tournament revenue from the conference and would be left without any start-up to form a new conference" (ESPN.com, 12/11).
WHO WIELDS THE POWER? In Providence, Kevin McNamara wrote the seven schools now are "in a position of strength in the league as numerous football members have announced plans to leave the Big East." Sources said that Big East presidents and ADs have "held numerous discussions over the last several months on the viability of the conference" (PROVIDENCEJOURNAL.com, 12/10). SPORTING NEWS' Mike DeCourcy writes the possibility of the seven schools breaking off on their own is "highly unlikely, as it would force all of them ... to pay exit fees and separate from the Big East brand, the league’s long-term contract to hold the championship tournament at Madison Square Garden and all the money due them from other schools’ exit fees and previous NCAA Tournament earnings" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 12/11).
GREENER PASTURES: In Cincinnati, Cliff Peale reported the latest conference realignment moves "spurred a flurry of emails among University of Cincinnati officials last month." The e-mails show UC leaders "believed the school could get into the Atlantic Coast Conference with the Big 12 as a secondary option." UC AD Whit Babcock in an e-mail to President Santa Ono on Nov. 18, before the ACC announced its decision to accept Louisville, wrote, "Big 10 and ACC moves ... could cause Big 12 perhaps to rethink staying at 10 schools. We need to focus on both ACC (primarily) but also Big 12." The e-mail and other documents also show that UC "tried to enlist Ohio State University football coach Urban Meyer, whose sister works at UC." Meyer eventually "backed away from that request" (CINCINNATI.com, 12/10).
Regular-season attendance at FBS schools "dipped to 45,274 fans per game in 2012, the lowest average since 2003," according to Jon Solomon of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS. FBS crowds "declined for the second straight season," and five of the six BCS conferences "experienced lower averages in 2012." College football "still drew 35.3 million fans into stadiums and remains one of America's most popular sports." But the average regular-season attendance "has decreased 3 percent since peaking at 46,739 in 2008." Fifty-six percent of the FBS schools "reported fewer fans in 2012 than the previous season." Some of those dips were "very minor," but eight BCS schools "experienced attendance declines of 10 percent or greater from 2011." Five of the nation's top 20 attendance leaders "experienced noticeable declines, led by 5-percent drops at Penn State and Tennessee." The SEC "continued to lead the nation at 75,444 fans per game, but that was its lowest average since 2007." SEC crowds are "down 2 percent since peaking in 2008 at 76,844." The Big Ten "averaged 70,387 fans per game in 2012, its lowest since 2008." The Big 12 experienced its "smallest average (58,712) since 2005." The Pac-12 with a 53,586 average was "the only BCS conference with an increase." But that was "largely due to California returning to its renovated stadium after playing last season in a smaller stadium." The Pac-12 average "has declined 8 percent since setting a record in 2007." The ACC's average crowd of 49,544 was "its smallest in 12 years and down 11 percent since 2004." Solomon noted college football "could get a jolt in attendance once the four-team playoff starts in 2014, depending on how schools and conferences choose to adapt." The chart below lists the biggest gains and declines among FBS schools from '11 to '12 (AL.com, 12/10).
'12 FBS ATTENDANCE (BIGGEST GAINS, LARGEST DECLINES)
1-YR % +/-
San Jose State
NOTE: * = Played at renovated stadium this season.
DOWNSIZED DOGHOUSE: In Seattle, Bob Condotta wrote there were “extenuating circumstances” for the Univ. of Washington’s 6% decline in attendance this year, “as it played the season at CenturyLink Field while Husky Stadium was renovated.” CenturyLink is “a little smaller, with a listed capacity of 68,000 compared to the 72,500 of the old Husky Stadium.” Condotta: “It's hard to know exactly how much playing off-campus at the CLink impacted attendance, though I'm sure it did a little bit” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 12/10).
LSU’s '11-12 athletic year was "both a highly visible and profitable one," according to Scott Rabalais of the Baton Rouge ADVOCATE. Numbers submitted under the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act show that LSU "ranked sixth nationally in 2011-12 with revenues of $113,964,540." After all expenses, the department "managed a profit of $18,261,340." LSU Senior Associate AD/Business & CFO Mark Ewing said that LSU’s profit "came before the department donated approximately $8.2 million to the academic side of the university." Rabalais notes LSU’s total athletic revenue comes from "a variety of sources such as ticket sales, TV and radio contracts and merchandising as well as donations through the Tiger Athletic Foundation." Eleven schools "reported revenues of more than $100 million, led by Texas with $163.3 million." Of LSU's revenue, approximately "60 percent -- $68,804,309 -- came from football." Meanwhile, LSU Associate Vice Chancellor Herb Vincent said that the school has "sold just more than 10,000 tickets for the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson." That number still is "far short of the allotment of 16,000 the school received." Vincent said that the school is "trying to promote ticket sales through a variety of sources, especially with alumni groups." The Atlanta area -- where the bowl game will be played -- is "one of LSU’s largest alumni areas outside Louisiana" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 12/11).
The Univ. of Michigan announced that it will “increase its seat donation requirement for most season football tickets" beginning in '13, according to Kyle Meinke of ANNARBOR.com. All non-student seating “now will require donations.” Seat donation programs also “will be adjusted for select seating at men's basketball and hockey games.” The per game price for a football season ticket “will not change, staying at $65.” The donation price levels for next season “will vary depending on location: Indoor Club ($4,000), Outdoor club ($1,500-$3,000), WSCB ($1,250-$2,000), Victors ($600), Valiant ($475), Maize ($350), Blue ($200) and End Zone ($75).” Those who have held season tickets in the end zone since before the '05 season "will have their rates phased in: $37.50 per seat in 2013, $75 per seat in 2014” (ANNARBOR.com, 12/11).