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Mountain West Stable, For Now

The Mountain West appears to have won a large victory with the recent additions (or not losses if that’s how you choose to look at it) of Boise State and San Diego State.  That may in fact be the case.  However, there is also the possibility that in its quest for stabilization and increased stature, the Mountain West endangered itself by giving away crucial member equality in order to re-acquire Boise State.

Reports indicate the Mountain West has or will (among other things): 1) re-negotiate its television contract with CBS Sports Network which will allow teams on national television (i.e. Boise State) to make more money through bonuses, 2) sell Boise State’s home games in a separate package, and 3) allocate half of BCS (and future equivalent) bowl game revenue to the participating team (i.e. Boise State) before splitting it among the remaining conference members.

From the quotes of Big East commissioner Mike Aresco, it sounds as if Boise State wanted to stay in the Big East if it would match the Mountain West’s offer.  Smartly, Mr. Aresco and the remaining Big East schools’ (bonus points if you can name them) presidents said thanks, but no thanks.  In a time when it must feel like everything is crashing down around them, the Big East brass found a line they wouldn’t cross.  Good for them. Let’s face it, Boise State to the Big East wasn’t exactly the perfect mix of chocolate and peanut butter.  So for the Big East to grant unprecedented perks to a school 2,600 miles removed from the conference office didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuck even went public with his disdain for the proposed deal, saying:

“What Boise State wanted was outrageous and unprecedented. It was not palatable to any of the other Big East institutions,” Gladchuk said. “In the final analysis, Boise wasn’t worth it. There is zero television interest in Boise along the Eastern seaboard. What it tells me is the Mountain West was desperate. Clearly, the Mountain West was willing to make whatever concessions necessary to keep Boise in the fold.”

But surely it made sense for the Mountain West to do whatever was necessary to bring Boise State back under its tent, right?  Maybe, maybe not.  The money grab that is conference realignment also has an undercurrent of trying to create and/or maintain stability and long-term viability.  As mentioned earlier, the Mountain West seems to have stabilized at 12 members.  But when gross member inequality is part of a league’s structure, there can be problems.

Example:  When the Big 12 was formed in the mid-90s, its structure was similar to how the Mountain West is currently proceeding.  Most notably, it did not share bowl and television revenue monies equally among the members.  Rather, the participating teams were first entitled to a larger share.  This obviously funneled most of the revenue toward the traditionally successful programs, and smaller amounts to everyone else. (Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman wrote about this structure in 2010.) As time passed the Big 12 and its membership experienced the difficulties of operating a conference successfully when there’s a sense that a few schools are driving the bus and collecting the checks, and the rest are just passengers along for the ride.  Ultimately, that and other issues led to the departure of 1/3rd of the Big 12’s schools (Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Texas A&M), and a near collapse of the conference entirely.

Whether the Big 12 leadership decided the original structure was a mistake, or that times had changed and therefore the structure needed to change with it, the powers that be agreed to a more (though not completely) equal distribution of revenue in the summer of 2011.  It also put a stake in the ground on stability by having each member grant its television rights to the conference for a long period of time (initially six years, but recently extended to 13), essentially removing the largest incentive to other conferences who may wish to come poaching in the future (the importance of this “grant of rights” was well articulated by Mat Winter in a BusinessofCollegeSports.com post last month).  I have not read or heard anything along the lines of Boise State or the other Mountain West schools making similar commitments.

So while the Big 12 (barely) escaped the inequality trap and the Big East has avoided it for now, the Mountain West may have fallen right in it.  Sure, Utah State and San Jose State are excited to be new members in a league which just got considerably stronger.  And the other Mountain West schools no doubt see the tremendous value Boise State brings to all of them.  But give those non-Boise State presidents and athletic directors a few years of conference meetings looking over financials, and watching the revenue flow into the conference and out to Boise State.  Give them a few years of conference meetings observing how decisions are made.

The camaraderie that exists today may not continue very long.  And without a grant-of-rights or similar level of commitment, Boise State is for all intents and purposes a perpetual free agent, available to accept the next best conference offer that comes along.  The Mountain West’s current and future members no doubt wanted to make decisions which ensured stability over the long-term.  And while the league certainly got immediately stronger with the addition of Boise State, it may be that the deal they made guarantees the long-term will be anything but stable.

Follow Daniel on Twitter: @DanielHare

BCS Payouts vs. March Madness Payouts

Quite frequently in the debate over the BCS there are comparisons to March Madness. Proponents of moving to a playoff system point to the approximately $771 million a year (beginning in 2011) March Madness generates in television alone (previously an average of $545 million). Meanwhile, the BCS bowls will generate just $125 million beginning in 2011 (previously$96.4 million per year ).

While it’s true March Madness generates more television revenue overall, that doesn’t necessarily mean more money for each athletic department. A total of $452,200,000 was distributed by the NCAA in 2010-2011, and less than half of all monies distributed went back into the athletic department with no strings attached (via the Basketball Fund). Here’s the breakdown:

Basketball Fund ($180,467,000): Monies are distributed based on a six-year rolling period. Institutions receive one unit for each appearance, not including the championship game. Each unit was worth $239,664 in 2010-2011.

Academic Enhancement ($22,461,000): Each Division I institution gets $66,000 to use for academic support service for student-athletes.

Conference Grants ($8,115,000): Each conference receives $261,744 less an agreed upon amount remitted to the regional officiating advisors program. Funds must be used to improve officiating, enhance conference compliance and enforcement programs, drug abuse education, enhancement of opportunities for ethnic minorities, and development of gambling education programs.

Sports Sponsorship Fund ($60,155,000): Each school’s share is determined based on the number of varsity sports sponsored. Points begin with the 14th sport (the number required in Division I), and $30,091 is distributed for each sport above thirteen. These monies may be directed to individual institutions or to the conference for distribution, as decided upon by each conference.

Grants-In-Aid Fund ($120,309,000): Each school’s share is determined based on the number of grants-in-aid awarded. These monies may be directed to individual institutions or to the conference for distribution, as decided upon by each conference.

Student Assistance Fund ($59,738,000): This fund also consists of the Special Assistance Fund and the Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund. For the Student Assistance Fund, all athletes are eligible to receive these funds, even if they have exhausted eligibility or no longer participate due to medical reasons. These monies are distributed to the conference who decides how to allocate. This fund is to be used to assist student-athletes with financial needs that “arise in conjunction with participation in intercollegiate athletics, enrollment in an academic curriculum or that recognize academic achievement. The Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund is distributed by conferences based on the formula used for sports sponsorship and grants-in-aid. The Special Assistance Fund is to be used to meet student-athlete financial needs of an emergency or essential nature for which other financial aid is not available.

Supplemental Support Fund ($955,000): Used to support campus-based initiatives designed to foster student-athlete academic success at eligible limited resource institutions.

At the end of the day, most conferences receive larger payouts from the BCS than March Madness when it comes to money going back into the athletic department with no strings attached. Below is a look at the payouts for the past four years. Totals in red reflect conferences who received a larger payout from basketball than football for the given year. You should also note the football payouts indicated for the non-AQ conferences (Mountain West, Mid-American, Sun Belt, C-USA and Western Athletic) are based on the payout from the BCS before the agreement between the conferences to split BCS money equally between all non-AQ conferences kicks in. Also, these numbers do not include payouts for non-BCS bowl games.

ACC 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $18,088,675 $18,324,992 $18,672,725 $19,787,058
Basketball $14,149,120 $15,090,053 $15,863,538 $18,220,902
Difference  $3,939,555 $3,234,939 $2,809,187 $1,566,156
         
Big 10 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $22,588,675 $22,824,992 $23,172,725 $24,287,058
Basketball $13,087,936 $13,561,946 $13,803,338 $15,332,222
Difference $9,500,739 $9,263,046 $9,369,387 $8,954,836
         
Big 12 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $18,088,675 $22,824,992 $23,172,725 $19,787,058
Basketball $14,325,984 $15,663,093 $16,275,578 $17,109,871
Difference $3,762,691 $7,161,899 $6,897,147 $2,677,187
         
Big East 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $18,088,675 $18,324,992 $18,672,725 $19,787,058
Basketball $14,856,576 $16,618,160 $19,365,880 $23,109,436
Difference $3,232,099 $1,706,832 ($693,155) ($3,322,378)
         
Pac 10 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $18,088,675 $18,324,992 $18,672,743 $19,787,058
Basketball $11,849,888 $12,606,880 $13,391,298 $14,665,604
Difference $6,238,787 $5,718,112 $5,281,445 $5,121,454
         
SEC 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $22,588,675 $22,824,992 $23,172,725 $24,287,058
Basketball $13,087,936 $14,708,026 $15,657,518 $15,110,015
Difference $9,500,739 $8,116,966 $7,515,207 $9,177,043
         
Mountain West 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $3,529,600 $3,724,000 $9,788,800 $9,878,710
Basketball $3,183,552 $4,011,280 $4,120,399 $3,999,710
Difference $346,048 ($287,280) $5,668,401 $5,879,000
         
Mid-American 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $1,964,800 $1,508,000 $2,094,400 $2,139,355
Basketball $1,945,504 $1,910,133 $1,442,140 $1,333,237
Difference $19,296 ($402,133) $652,260 $806,118
         
Sun Belt 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $1,443,200 $2,062,000 $1,529,600 $1,559,570
Basketball $1,061,184 $1,146,080 $1,854,180 $2,222,061
Difference $382,016 $915,920 ($324,580) ($662,491)
         
C-USA 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $2,486,400 $2,616,000 $2,659,200 $2,719,140
Basketball $7,782,016 $8,213,573 $9,064,879 $8,507,523
Difference ($5,295,616) ($5,597,573) ($6,405,679) ($5,788,383)
         
Western Athletic 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $9,008,000 $9,170,000 $3,224,000 $7,798,925
Basketball $3,006,688 $3,247,227 $3,090,300 $3,110,886
Difference $6,001,312 $5,922,773 $133,700 $4,688,039

I think it’s interesting to note that AQ football conferences are bringing in more from March Madness than non-AQ football conferences. Some of that has to do with the smaller size of some of the non-AQ conferences, but it’s still rather sizeable disparity. Nonetheless, I imagine people still find the March Madness system more digestible because it is a playoff system and because payouts are based on number of appearances.

Special thanks to my research assistant Eric Heckman for helping me compile the data.

Student Fees for Non-AQ Schools

This morning I showed you the Top 25 Recipients of Student Activity Fees in the BCS, and last week we looked at each school in the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 and the ACC, Pac-10 and Big East.

Below is a breakdown, by conference, of every school in a non-AQ conference. Remember, “N/A” means the school is either private or otherwise immune to open records request, whereas “0″ means the athletic department does not receive student fees. Also, numbers are from the 2009-2010 school year.

Conference USA

School Student Fees % of Total Revenue
University of Central Florida $17,466,918.00 44%
East Carolina University $10,441,783.00 32%
University of Memphis $7,666,067.00 19%
Univ of Southern Miss $6,056,608.00 31%
University of Houston $4,728,620.00 14%
UTEP $4,189,751.00 16%
Marshall University $4,150,759.00 18%
Univ. of Alabama – B’ham $3,454,483.00 14%
Rice University N/A N/A
SMU N/A N/A
Tulane University N/A N/A
University of Tulsa N/A N/A

Mid-American Conference

School Student Fees % of Total Revenue
Ohio Univ $16,460,250.00 69%
Univ of Akron $16,199,911.00 67%
Miami Univ (OH) $13,786,549.00 53%
Kent State $10,516,660.00 54%
Univ of Toledo $9,824,257.00 49%
Bowling Green $9,497,261.00 50%
Ball State Univ $9,221,400.00 46%
Northern Illinois Univ $8,333,419.00 38%
Univ of Buffalo $7,439,422.00 29%
Eastern Michigan Univ $1,572,843.00 6%
Central Michigan Univ $0.00 0%
Western Michigan Univ $0.00 0%

Mountain West Conference

School Student Fees % of Total Revenue
San Diego State Univ $10,220,740.00 31%
Colorado State $4,774,723.00 18%
Univ of Utah $4,168,754.00 14%
UNLV $2,287,676.00 4%
Univ New Mexico $1,608,093.00 4%
Univ of Wyoming $1,156,548.00 4%
USAF Academy $428,142.00 1%
BYU N/A N/A
TCU N/A N/A

Sun Belt Conference

School Student Fees % of Total Revenue
Florida Intl Univ $15,635,778.00 71%
Florida Atlantic Univ $8,877,456.00 55%
Middle Tennessee State $6,848,065.00 33%
Western Kentucky $6,437,652.00 28%
Univ South Alabama $5,680,478.00 35%
Univ North Texas $5,007,059.00 49%
Univ Arkansas Little Rock $3,627,665.00 38%
Arkansas State Univ $2,832,773.00 30%
Troy Univ $712,380.00 5%
Univ Louisiana Monroe $362,045.00 3%
Univ Louisiana Lafayette $0.00 0%

Western Athletic Conference

School Student Fees % of Total Revenue
San Jose State $4,683,122.00 23%
Utah State $3,700,874.00 19%
Boise State Univ $2,980,056.00 8%
New Mexico State $2,613,320.00 10%
Univ Nevada Reno $2,333,116.00 10%
Univ Idaho $2,218,219.00 14%
Univ Hawaii $0.00 0%
Louisiana Tech Univ $0.00 0%
Cal State Univ – Fresno N/A N/A

Top 25 Recipients of Student Activity Fees in BCS

Student Section at UCF Football Game

Last week I showed you the top recipients of student fees in the AQ conferences. That list changes dramatically when you consider non-AQ schools. Here are the top 25 recipients of student activity fees in the BCS based on dollar amount:

1 University of Central Florida $17,466,918.00 44%
2 Ohio Univ $16,460,250.00 69%
3 Univ of Akron $16,199,911.00 67%
4 Florida Intl Univ $15,635,778.00 71%
5 Miami Univ (OH) $13,786,549.00 53%
6 University of South Florida $13,026,289.00 33%
7 University of Virginia $12,160,103.00 15%
8 Kent State $10,516,660.00 54%
9 East Carolina University $10,441,783.00 32%
10 San Diego State Univ $10,220,740.00 31%
11 Univ of Toledo $9,824,257.00 49%
12 Bowling Green $9,497,261.00 50%
13 Ball State Univ $9,221,400.00 46%
14 Florida Atlantic Univ $8,877,456.00 55%
15 University of Connecticut $8,626,506.00 15%
16 Rutgers University $8,441,092.00 13%
17 Northern Illinois Univ $8,333,419.00 38%
18 University of Memphis $7,666,067.00 19%
19 Univ of Buffalo $7,439,422.00 29%
20 Florida State University $6,919,449.00 9%
21 University of North Carolina $6,859,868.00 9%
22 Middle Tennessee State $6,848,065.00 33%
23 Virginia Tech $6,533,756.00 10%
24 Western Kentucky $6,437,652.00 28%
25 Univ of Southern Miss $6,056,608.00 31%

Only six on the list come from AQ conferences and all are either from the ACC or Big East. It’s also interesting to note that five Florida schools and four Ohio schools are in the top 25, which I’ll discuss more below.

Perhaps more interesting than the dollar amount, which is certainly influenced by size of enrollment and amount of student activity fees charged per student, is which schools top the list in terms of the percent of total athletic department revenue being generated by student fees:

  School Student Fees % of Total Revenue
1 Florida Intl Univ $15,635,778.00 71%
2 Ohio Univ $16,460,250.00 69%
3 Univ of Akron $16,199,911.00 67%
4 Florida Atlantic Univ $8,877,456.00 55%
5 Kent State $10,516,660.00 54%
6 Miami Univ (OH) $13,786,549.00 53%
7 Bowling Green $9,497,261.00 50%
8 Univ of Toledo $9,824,257.00 49%
9 Univ North Texas $5,007,059.00 49%
10 Ball State Univ $9,221,400.00 46%
11 University of Central Florida $17,466,918.00 44%
12 Northern Illinois Univ $8,333,419.00 38%
13 Univ Arkansas Little Rock $3,627,665.00 38%
14 Univ South Alabama $5,680,478.00 35%
15 University of South Florida $13,026,289.00 33%
16 Middle Tennessee State $6,848,065.00 33%
17 East Carolina University $10,441,783.00 32%
18 San Diego State Univ $10,220,740.00 31%
19 Univ of Southern Miss $6,056,608.00 31%
20 Arkansas State Univ $2,832,773.00 30%
21 Univ of Buffalo $7,439,422.00 29%
22 Western Kentucky $6,437,652.00 28%
23 San Jose State $4,683,122.00 23%
24 University of Memphis $7,666,067.00 19%
25 Utah State $3,700,874.00 19%

Seven schools get at least half their budget from student fees, with students at Florida International providing more than 70% of the total revenue for the athletic department! If you expand the pool to schools receiving at least a third of their athletic department revenue from student fees, you’re up to sixteen schools. This time only one AQ school makes it onto the list: South Florida. While there’s certainly a trend in the non-AQ conferences for requiring student fees to fund athletics, there’s a definite pattern in Florida and Ohio.

I spoke with Brad Stricklin of University of Central Florida Read the rest of this entry