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

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

Move over, little dog.

With the news that the Las Vegas Bowl will be settling into new digs once the Raiders’ stadium is finished next year, it seems it’ll be too nice a setting for a mid-major.

According to Stadium’s Brett McMurphy, the bowl will move from UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium to the Raiders’ new palace upon its opening in 2020, and with an upgrade in venue will come in an upgrade in matchup. Out goes the Mountain West, in comes the SEC or the Big Ten.

College football’s two richest conferences have teamed up in recent years to pool their tie-ins, and now this will get them to one of the premier non-New Year’s Six destinations, at the expense of a premier Group of 5 destination. (For the record, the WAC/MW is a combined 10-7 in the Las Vegas Bowl against the Pac-10/12 since the tie-in began in 2001, including a 31-20 Fresno State win over Arizona State in 2018.)

And, sure, it’ll be a win-win for the Las Vegas Bowl itself. Over the course of the 6-year contract, the Big Ten and the SEC will each come to Vegas three times. Television and fans will love it. The first SEC vs. Pac-12 game will be the first non-playoff bowl game between the two leagues since the 1989 Freedom Bowl.

Thanks for keeping the seat warm, fellas.

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Better living through engineering

Gotta admit this is pretty clever, not to mention cost-effective for a small mid-major program:

The athletic department presented plans for an inflatable dome designed to be used by multiple varsity and club athletic teams to members of the Student Association, sparking concern among some members of the student body.

The inflatable dome would be located in the infield of the bike track behind Rice Stadium because it could not fit within the current football practice field, according to Deputy Athletics Director Rick Mello. It would cover 80,000 square feet, leaving 136 feet on either end to the inside curve of the bike track. The dome would be moved or deflated sometime before Beer Bike each year, with the time to be determined based on feedback from the student body, Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman said. Bikers could still practice on the track while the dome is inflated, according to Mello.

The structure, which is still in the early development phase, will be used by teams during inclement weather such as rain or high heat, according to Mello.

The main users will be Rice football…

No, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Georgia’s fancy new $30 million IPF, but it sure looks a lot more functional than the half-assed facility B-M saddled Richt with back in the day.

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TFW you’re chasing your own tail

Otherwise known as no mid-major program can serve two masters

Memphis is coming off its best five-year stretch in program history, which includes an AAC championship in 2014.

Success, however, hasn’t kept the program immune from attendance problems that have plagued college football. While NCAA attendance figures haven’t been released from 2018,  attendance in 2017 had its largest drop in 34 years.

It’s something Bowen knows firsthand as a member of the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee. While he felt this season was a solid year attendance wise, he knows that Memphis and other schools are competing with fans who seek cheaper options to watch games and have more games to watch on television.

He added there have been discussions about bringing back pregame activities to add to the Tiger Walk and continuing to push fans to purchase season tickets. Bowen did not say what those activities would be.

 “It’s critical for us to keep aggressively marketing, aggressively pushing forward, re-evaluating what worked and what didn’t work,” said Bowen, “We’re going to do some dynamic ticket pricing this season which we haven’t done in the past which we’ll announce soon.”

Declining attendance is another reason the AAC has pushed for a better media rights deal when the current one expires in 2020. Memphis president David Rudd is a part of the negotiations with AAC commissioner Mike Aresco, and the conference is in an exclusive negotiating window with ESPN, according to an interview Bowen did with Sports56 WHBQ on Monday

With seven of the 12 AAC schools reporting a decrease in attendance from the 2018 season, there’s hope that revenue from a new deal will easily exceed the $2 million each school is currently receiving.

“If you’re going to have a situation where you sell all your media rights, you need to be compensated in a way that it helps offset loss of ticket revenue, so that’s why our media deal is really important for the AAC because my colleagues are seeing the same thing,” Bowen said.

All the aggressive marketing in the world isn’t going to offset shitty start times that depress live crowd numbers imposed on you by your broadcast partner, dude.  And you’ll have no choice but to become even more dependent on Mickey’s money as your attendance numbers continue to decline.  That’s what constitutes tradition in today’s college football world.

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TFW you’re trying too hard

Bless your heart, UCF Knight News.

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Buying in

If there’s no money in P5 football, why is Houston doing this?

The University of Houston obliterated the pay scale for football coaches at schools outside the five power conferences on Thursday when it disclosed the details of its contract with newly hired Dana Holgorsen.

The five-year deal’s basic value is a total of $20 million, and Holgorsen’s pay for the 2019 season is currently set to make him the highest-paid football coach at a Group of Five public school by $1.1 million…

Houston will provide Holgorsen up to $4.5 million, not including standard fringe benefits, to cover the salaries of 10 assistant coaches, a strength coach and other off-field support, operations and recruiting personnel “deemed necessary to successfully operate the Football program.”

“Successfully operate”, eh?  What that means…

If Houston’s football team is invited to join a Power Five conference, the university will renegotiate Holgorsen’s deal. In addition, if Holgorsen is the head coach when the school accepts such an invitation, he would get an additional $1 million payment two years later as long he doesn’t leave or get fired for cause.

I keep saying it, but it’s easy to throw money at a problem when you don’t have to pay the hired help.  That’s why these guys are so smart.

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“The LSU defense is going to be at half strength against UCF.”

Sigh.

A unit that is already missing its two starting corners, Greedy Williams and Kristian Fulton, just found out it will be without Kelvin Joseph as well. That’s the team’s top three corners. This is on top of losing the top two nose tackles, Breiden Fehoko and Ed Alexander, forcing Aranda to start a freshman (Tyler Shelvin) backed up by another freshman (Dominic Livingston).

Oh, and the linebackers will be without K’Lavon Chiasson, as they have all year. Additionally, Jacob Phillips will serve his suspension for an illegal hit in the Texas A&M game in the first half. We also don’t know what sort of punishment John Battle will face for his role in the postgame shenanigans.

Oh, but don’t worry.

While I won’t sit here and tell you it’s a good thing LSU will be scraping the bottom of the bowl to find anyone who can play cornerback, what is exciting is that this is essentially the first game of 2019. LSU’s defense is going to be playing on one leg (but come on, we’ll still have Devin White and Grant Delpit, so let’s not pretend we won’t have our two best defensive players), but the offense will finally be ready to go.

Ensminger has had the excuse all year that this was a complete rebuild of the offense. LSU had to replace its starting quarterback, its top two runners, its top two receivers, and four offensive linemen. All while installing a new offense. Some growing pains were bound to happen, and that’s before the line showed about as much stability as a plutonium isotope.

However, the line is now healthy and Ensminger has had a full year to install his offense. Joe Burrow is no longer the outsider, a transfer from out of conference, he is now the undisputed team leader. The receiving corps is no longer going to be judged on its potential, but its actual production.

The offense is out of excuses. It’s time to take down those “pardon our progress” signs and debut the finished product. It’s a new year, and the year of construction is over. Now, part of this timetable is due to the defense needing the support. There’s nowhere for the offense to hide in this game. It has to produce.

Those assholes are gonna beat another SEC West team, aren’t they…

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