Intercollegiate Athletic Forum: ADs Happy With Results Of Conference Realignment
After several years of tumult and uncertainty, ADs of several key schools involved in college football's massive conference realignment said they have come away from the shifts in a far better position. Execs for Syracuse, Texas A&M, TCU and West Virginia, speaking at the '13 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, each said they were forced to act in the best interest of their own universities, regardless of the consequences to traditional conference rivalries. Syracuse left the Big East for the ACC, TCU joined the Big 12 after reversing plans to join the Big East, West Virginia also joined the Big 12 after stints in the Big East, MAC and Atlantic 10, and Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC. "This is a momentous shift, but our responsibilities are to our institutions," said Chris Del Conte of TCU. "Fans will need some time to adjust, but we've all benefited our institutions." Added West Virginia AD Oliver Luck, "We all knew the tectonic plates were shifting. Once Pitt and Syracuse left, we knew the Big East was doomed, and we had to represent our institutions."
THE REAL EFFECTS OF REALIGNMENT: Each of the schools reported big business jumps from its realignment. Texas A&M AD Eric Hyman said student applications at the school jumped five-fold after the move to the SEC. "The SEC has created a lot of enthusiasm and pride in A&M," Hyman said. “It's boosted university donations, not just athletic donations. It's not all about athletics." Travel expenses for the realigned schools in most instances have jumped noticeably. In West Virginia's case, for example, the school's athletic department spends an additional $2M per year in team travel competing in the Big 12. But those expenses have been more than compensated by increased media rights fees. "All of us have benefited financially," Luck said. "Our TV rights went up 2-3 times. Travel costs increased, sure, but that was way overtaken by media. All the metrics are better, in some cases significantly."
LOOKING FOR THE RIGHT FIT: Several of the panelists described their search for a new conference fit as an epic quest. "When the Southwest Conference broke up, we were like the Israelites, looking for a major conference," Del Conte said. "The culture of TCU was that we needed to be in a major conference. We were sort of were on a conference odyssey." When asked what the next big conference shakeup would be, Del Conte flipped the question around, "The bigger question is when the (new) football playoff goes from four teams to eight."
For more from the Intercollegiate Athletic Forum, please see our On The Ground blog.