Months ago, when news broke that C-USA was going to lose four of its premier athletics programs, the future of the conference didn't seem so bright. With Houston, Memphis, SMU, and UCF heading to the Big East, Conference USA would lose three of its top football programs, and easily its top program in basketball.
Those losses brought about plenty of questions as to how the conference would survive as a viable player in division 1 athletics. The first option was to merge with a depleted Mountain West to form a completely new league. When that didn't work out, expansion was the only other choice.
Conference USA elected to add 6 schools, in what was perhaps a preemptive strike against further defections. All in all, the conference did pretty well. Granted, the additions don't exactly make up for the losses, but no one should be disappointed with the schools that C-USA brought in, especially the most recent; Old Dominion.Today it was made official that the Monarchs would become the 14th member of the conference, beginning in the 2013 season. However, their football program will not be upgraded to FBS status until 2015. Joining ODU in 2013 will be fellow newcomers Charlotte, FIU, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, and UTSA. Its also expected for Charlotte to join as a football member in 2015.
All schools bring their respective qualities to the table, and each, in some way or another, make the conference better. Some bring tv markets, some brings quality programs, some bring great facilities, some expand our geographic footprint, and a couple bring a little bit of everything.
But, Old Dominion just might be the prize of them all. ODU just brought their football program back into existence over the last few years, and is already a quality player at the FCS level. In fact, one of ODU's concerns in making this conference move, was being able to have a chance to win the FCS championship this coming season.
If they could do that, that would be great. But even without it, Old Dominion is one of those additions that brings a little bit of everything to the table. On top of bringing a new tv market and expanding our footprint, the school makes Conference USA stronger with their basketball program alone. The Monarchs have made 4 NCAA tournament appearances since 2005, and lost to eventual national runner up Butler by 2 in 2011.
Now, of course, what it all boils down to is money. Member jjimenez3272 posed the question in The State of the Conference Realignment Address post yesterday as to how much money C-USA schools actually make from their TV deals. After a little research, and if my numbers are correct, I found out that the figure is somewhere in the $1.5M range, per school, annually.
That comes from two TV deals that Conference USA has with both FOX Sports and CBS Sports. Each contract is worth about $40M+ over the next five years. While the TV networks probably aren't thrilled about C-USA losing some of its best members, they should be fairly optimistic with the additions that were made.
I realize that losing Memphis is a huge blow to C-USA basketball, and the other three losses are tough for C-USA football, but all of the new members really help soften the blow. Florida International and Louisiana Tech bring football programs who are coming off 8 win seasons. UTSA's football program is definitely heading in the right direction, and ODU is currently doing well at the FCS level.
As far as basketball, Old Dominion is obviously the best add, but in reality all but FIU have some fairly strong programs. Of course, basketball won't bring in the big bucks like football does, but all together, we may have a little to bargain with in any potential renegotiation of TV deals.
If the conference is able to renegotiate with FOX and CBS, they could potentially squeeze a few extra bucks out of them. In reality, we shouldn't expect for them to triple our payouts, but if we can negotiate any more money at all, then as a conference we'd actually be in better shape financially than we were before the defections.
Whether or not the conference is able to up their TV deals, they've done well to maintain their positioning in the major college athletics landscape. I don't think anyone ever wanted to lose the members that we did, but now that its all said and done, we're still in pretty decent shape. Its gonna be interesting to see what the future holds.