Every third Thursday of each month, Idaho Director of Athletics Dr. Rob Spear will post a new blog entry directed towards Vandal fans. Dr. Spear will use these monthly communiqués to set the record straight and talk to you – Vandal to Vandal..
An archive of previous blog entries can be accessed here.
I am predicting June 7th will be the day when the first shoe drops regarding conference realignment. The week of June 7th is the week most conferences have meetings with their respective Boards (Presidents from each of the member institutions). This meeting follows May meetings when conference commissioners meet with Directors of Athletics, Senior Woman Administrators and Faculty Athletic Representatives from each of the member institutions. Many issues are discussed in May and items requiring formal Board approval are forwarded to the presidents for their June meeting. As you might expect conference realignment was one of the items discussed and debated among all conferences.
Everything the media has written and publicized is basically what we know at this time. The Big 10 is looking at expanding to 12, 14 or 16 teams. Any movement by the Big-10 could impact the Big-12, which could impact the Mountain West and ultimately the WAC, and the Big East, which could impact Conference USA, and possibly the Sun Belt. As you can see, after the first move, the dominos will start to fall.
It appears Pac-10 expansion at this time may not happen because of the recent television contract negotiated by the ACC. So why would a television agreement, reached by the ACC, influence the Pac-10? It is simple. Money! The ACC's new deal, which takes effect for the 2011-12 school year, more than doubles its existing contract and is now worth $155 million annually. The fact Fox was interested enough to join the fray and create a bidding war bodes well for the Pac-10, which will be renegotiating its TV deal beginning in January 2011.
Also boding well for the Pac-10 is that ESPN did not get the NCAA Tournament broadcast rights and, as a result, has money to spend. So do the math. The ACC has an estimated $88 million more dollars to divide among its membership without expanding! The only reason the Pac-10 expressed interest in expanding was to make it more attractive when it re-negotiates its television contract this winter. In theory, by adding some attractive teams (Utah and Colorado) and creating a 12-team league with a conference championship game (similar to the Big 12), the Pac-10 could command more television revenue. However, why expand when the possibility exists to more than double your revenue without expanding? It appears the Pac-10's revenue ceiling is higher than the ACC's and its deal could more than double from $43 million to more than $100 million.
So let's get down to business and discuss what all of this means to the WAC. In the event the WAC needs to add teams, there are some procedural matters that need to be understood. At this time, there is a moratorium in place until Aug. 7, 2011 which precludes any institution from pursuing Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) membership unless the institution pursued membership before the Aug. 9, 2007 adoption of the moratorium. Currently, no football-playing FCS schools that would fit the WAC's demographic started the reclassification process before Aug. 9, 2007. We have heard California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo), University of California at Davis (UC-Davis), Sacramento State, Portland State and Montana all are considering starting the reclassification process once the moratorium passes.
Assuming any of the above schools would start the process, each would need to submit an application prior to June 1, 2011 in order to begin the process during the 2011-12 academic year. The entire process takes two years and the requesting school must meet all FBS requirements, which includes increasing football scholarships to 85 and requiring each institution to sponsor 16 sports, during the time period. From a practical point of view, a current FCS school could be admitted into and participate in the WAC during the 2011-12 academic year. The school would be eligible for all NCAA Division I championships in all other sports except football. For football, a school could play a full conference schedule in 2011 with those games counting as the one FCS game currently permitted for FBS schools. In 2012, all the games versus the school would be counted as FBS games. The school would be eligible for post-season bowl games following the 2013 season.
The WAC needs to have options to replace schools in the likely event conference shuffling occurs. How many schools, which schools and the timing still is a question mark. My prediction is a non-BCS conference will make the first move and it will be sometime during the week of June 7th!