Thanks to the AState Nation subscribers who made this possible
The near constant talk that the set-up of CUSA and Sun Belt should be revised gets another log on the fire. This time from an article inThe Virginian-Pilot.
The author says multiple athletic directors around Conference USA stated off the record Conference USA and the Sun Belt need to be shuffled in some manner. Only Middle Tennessee’s Chris Massaro chose to make an on the record statement. Since the paper is based near Old Dominion University it can be assumed that ODU’s Wood Selig is one of those AD’s. Was he the one saying CUSA’s financial model is unsustainable? It would be interesting to know who dropped that particular bomb.
Massaro and Selig are better at the AD role than most G5 AD’s. They tend to be more pragmatic and less dogmatic.
The public view of Massaro is shared by AState athletic director Terry Mohajir who has said publicly several times that the G5 schools need to change how they are doing business and how they are aligned.
Forces pushing toward this heavily discussed outcome?
First is television money. You and I consider $100,000 or $200,000 or $1 million a lot of money. But the richest deal among the Group of 5 is the AAC television contract. We know from the numbers released by the public colleges in the league that television is less than 4% of the athletic budget for the typical AAC school. For Sun Belt and CUSA? Television is less than 1% of athletic budgets.
Football coaches in the P5 are paid roughly 20% to 35% of what their schools receive in television money. In the G5 salaries run from about 100% to 500% of what their schools receive in television money.
The television money available is just not enough to reshape behavior compared to P5 schools who can get a third of their budget from television.
What is of value is exposure on television in places you recruit and places where you sell tickets. That exposure is what makes the AAC deal better than the Sun Belt and CUSA deals, not the small amount of money it provides. That value is also why you have to be willing to take the lumps of a few weeknight games. Not the mess the MAC has where there are no Saturday games in November but moving one or two home dates is a good trade.
The second element is travel.
Fans tend to either over estimate travel costs or greatly underestimate the impact. Travel isn’t cheap and time matters almost as much as distance because time can determine whether there is another hotel night and how many meals are purchased. Flying 3 hours vs 4 hours isn’t a dramatic difference. Choosing between flying and a bus is a big difference. A longer trip resulting in two more road meals has an impact. Getting student-athletes back on campus at 11pm Saturday vs. 1am on Sunday isn’t dramatic but if it 11pm Thursday vs. 1am Friday the difference is big.
Travel is worthwhile if it is helping the program reach a goal like exposure in a recruiting area or a place that may produce students for the school or connect with a decent number of alumni. Travel that does not check off those boxes is just another expense on the financials of the athletic department. Travel that helps meet those goals is a benefit.
The third element maybe should be number one. Fans need a storyline.
For those of us who are hardcore fans, the team playing is all the storyline we need. For the people who aren’t hardcore and are the people who make the difference between a small crowd and large crowd, a storyline is essential.
That storyline can be playing a rival, playing a program with national respect, the natural competitive fire that follows playing someone from a neighboring state or within the state, or winning the conference title.
Now the win the conference title storyline works in any conference but you have to be a contender for it to work and most teams won’t be contenders.
Among the G5 rivalries are scarce because every few years someone tosses the scrabble tiles uh schools into a bag and mixes them back up. A fan from West Virginia is going to care more about playing someone from Virginia than someone from Louisiana all things being equal. AState fans care about playing Appalachian State because the storyline is about winning the conference, Texas State is playing those annoying neighboring Texans, playing Georgia State doesn’t create a storyline that attracts fan interest for AState fans, but it is a big storyline for Georgia Southern.
Currently there are simply no economic barriers to Sun Belt and CUSA reorganizing. Television is basically a wash. CFP is worth more than television for most of G5 but the difference in payout between conferences is not that large. Realigning can improve travel and the available storylines.
The problem is how do you make it happen?