Category Archives: It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

TFW you really are a basketball school

At Connecticut, the UConn athletic department saw its annual deficit grow to $41 million in 2018.  The solution?  Leave the AAC.

The Courant has confirmed through sources that UConn is indeed headed to the Big East for all sports the conference sponsors. The conference doesn’t sponsor hockey, so UConn will remain in the competitive Hockey East, and it does not sponsor football. That raises plenty of questions as to what will happen to UConn’s football program.

That may leave plenty of questions, but there aren’t a lot of good answers.  Dennis Dodd reports (and Dan Wolken confirms) that the AAC won’t allow UConn to remain as a football-only member, so that leaves two options:  find another conference (the Big East doesn’t support football) or go independent.

Just because those are options doesn’t mean they’re attractive options.

Looking for a new conference makes some sense. It would give UConn guaranteed TV revenue. But it puts the Huskies in the same situation as it faces in the AAC: guaranteed games against opponents UConn fans have no investment in. Early speculation is the Mid-Atlantic Conference would make some sense, but how excited will fans be to watch Akron, Toledo and Central Michigan? Football attendance has plummeted the last 10 years and likely wouldn’t see a bump with those teams.

Going independent could set UConn up with opponents fans might get excited about. But it comes without guaranteed money going in and could come with struggles to set up opponents in the first few years because so many programs set schedules years in advance. UConn could always try to set up a TV deal, but again, nothing is guaranteed.

On top of that, the school has to pay the AAC $10 million to leave and some entry fee to join the Big East.  How bad does its arrangement with the AAC have to be to lay out that kind of money on top of a $41 million deficit?

Quite simply, the AAC and UConn were just never a good fit. The Huskies got caught when the biggest Division I athletic conferences realigned earlier this decade. UConn hoped to find a home in the ACC or the Big Ten and gladly would have taken a spot in the Big 12 if the first two didn’t work out.

UConn lacked long, big-time football history but trends showed good football would lead to a good payday with TV contracts. So officials banded together with others who were left on the outside — Houston, Central Florida, Memphis, etc. — and constructed the AAC.

Geographically, it only made sense for TV dollars. Some of the biggest markets were brought into the fold. And while the $1 billion, 12-year deal the AAC just inked with ESPN is nothing to laugh at, the annual payment of about $7 million for UConn just isn’t close enough to what the Power Five conference teams receive.

UConn officials also felt the AAC-ESPN deal limited the school’s exposure, moving many games to a streaming service platform and off linear TV.

If they’re trying to measure their take against what P5 teams are pulling in from TV, good luck with that.  Nor does UConn has a financial situation comparable to basketball powerhouses like Kentucky or Louisville, both of which are able to supplement conference broadcast revenues with robust basketball programs.  Still, overall, it’s a plus for the Huskies’ basketball programs.  As for football,

It will be a disaster for UConn football.

Fewer than nine years after the Huskies played in the Fiesta Bowl, they’re waving the white flag on ever reaching such lofty heights again. They’re surrendering any hopes of eventually being invited to the ACC or the Big 12. They’re acknowledging that they have screwed up so bad the last half-decade in football that the only way they can save their athletic department is to cut and run from a conference that’s actually trying to compete with the big boys.

It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Randy Edsall, except he’s part of the problem the school faces.

When Randy Edsall came back to UConn in 2017 after back-to-back disastrous hires in Paul Pasqualoni and Bob Diaco, the idea was that he could make the program attractive enough to get back in those conversations. Instead, two years into Edsall’s second stint, it has gone backward and ended last season as the worst program in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

UConn football has cupcake written all over it for the foreseeable future.  Enjoy life on the road, fellas.

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Premium seating when you’re not in the big leagues

Greg McGarity does not approve of this.

The hostile nature of Apogee Stadium led Conference USA to move to a hard-line stance on student seating back in 2014, banning those fans from sitting directly behind an opponents’ bench.

North Texas athletic director Wren Baker confirmed Saturday that league officials have voted to reverse course and will allow students to sit in those premium seats.

Hell, approve?  I doubt he even comprehends it.  Why would you give up selling seats in a primo location like that?

Former UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal lobbied against C-USA’s restriction on student seating being enforced in 2014. He saw seating students in the premium seats behind the visitors’ bench as an opportunity to put the most enthusiastic fans in the most visible of locations for television games and as a way to secure future fans.  [Emphasis added.]

That’s a different sort of home field advantage, I guess.

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Down and out in the 404

Well, now.  USF’s athletic director explains his standards for judging when his school agrees to play two-for-ones against P5 programs ($$):

What White doesn’t want is AAC teams signing two-for-one deals with programs he feels are on equal footing. Kelly said the same thing.

“If it’s a more comparable economic situation, like we’re finishing up a one-for-one with Georgia Tech, our stadium sizes are comparable and it makes sense,” Kelly said.

Considering Kelly’s never resorted to a 4 tickets, 4  hot dogs, 4 cokes promotion to put asses in the seats, comparable might be something of a stretch there.

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Filed under Georgia Tech Football, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

Ain’t played Central Florida.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you UCF AD Danny White and Mike Bianchi:

UCF athletics director Danny White has made it clear he’s only in the market for home-and-homes against Power 5 teams and is simply not willing to give up millions of dollars in home-game revenue to schedule two-for-ones. And even if he did offer up a two-for-one, it’s not as if Alabama or Florida would agree to play at Spectrum Stadium, where the visiting team only gets 3,000 tickets.

“There are schools where it doesn’t matter if it’s a home-and-home or a two-for-one,” White says. “If a school has enough resources and tradition with their fan base, I’m not naïve enough to think we’re going to get some blue-blood to come play in our 45,000-seat stadium when they only have 3,000 fans. … That’s just not happening. I’m not even trying to get those types of games because it’s not realistic.”

Yeah, that’s the ticket, Danny.  UCF isn’t scared to play Alabama.  ‘Bama is scared to play UCF in its home stadium.

It’s like Florida offering a two-for-one never happened.

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant

The mountain comes to Muhammad. Once.

Today marks the day when we finally see how high the costs of those cupcake games have climbed.

Danny White will no doubt sputter, but in the meantime, South Florida’s too busy getting ready to host Florida, Miami and Alabama (!) to notice.

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Filed under Alabama, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

“I don’t know what I would do if I was in that (AD) chair.”

Which is not to say UCF’s Danny White doesn’t have some advice for his South Florida counterpart, after the Bulls scheduled a two-for-one series with Miama.

“(USF AD) Michael Kelly and I talk about a lot of different things … I’m sure that gate is meaningful for them for that single-game sale for those games. It’s a precedent I don’t like being set in our conference for schools to start doing a lot higher volume of 2-for-1s. We haven’t as a conference been that kind of place. We’ve been successful, historically, of getting home-and-homes with Power 6 opponents, and I’d like to see our conference peers continue to do that as we intend to do.”

White is so full of shit with that, mainly because he feels like it undercuts his attempt to push Florida into scheduling a straight home-and-home deal with UCF.  The idea that his conference has been successful at cutting those kind of deals with P5 schools is as in touch with reality as his insistence that UCF won a national championship.

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The American Athletic Conference gets a raise.

It’s pretty substantial, relatively speaking.

The American Athletic Conference and ESPN reportedly have reached a long-term agreement that is worth $1 billion. The new deal would pay UCF and other AAC schools close to $7 million per year when it goes into effect to start the 2020-21 academic year.

ESPN would pay an average of $83.3 million per year, according to the Sports Business Journal. That’s four times the amount the AAC receives through its current rights agreement of a little more than $20 million annually.

The new deal runs through 2031-32.

It includes an annual payout of $6.94 million per AAC school, which is up $5 million from the current rights deal payout.

Sure, that pales in comparison to your typical P5 partnership arrangement, but four times more is still four times more.  The real indicator this is a mid-major deal is this:

However, according to SBJ’s John Ourand, the new AAC agreement does include language that would protect ESPN financially in the event top programs leave the American and join other conferences during the contract.

Mickey doesn’t get to bargain for that kind of bet-hedging with the SEC.

In any event, what this really tells us is that, despite all the Clay Travis-type warnings about ESPN’s bleak future and what that means for college athletics, there’s still no safer place for a television network to put its money than live sports product.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's Just Bidness