In the days since we made our thoughts on the future of the league known here, a couple of things have happened:
- Many readers assumed we were advocating for a merger, with three divisions.
- Louisiana Tech’s AD Tommy McClelland came out forcefully denying any discussions of a ridiculous SunBelt/CUSA merger.
Let us be clear: merging the two leagues is silly and solves very little. The problems plaguing both leagues are similar: the Autonomy/Power/FBS+/Big Schools/Money Schools/Revenue Programs/What-Have-You dominate the money and the process to get more revenue and the rest of the football-playing universe has to make do with what is left. Tech has historically not played nicely with ULL and there are a handful of other relationships in the CUSA/Belt footprint that would cause bumps to any kind of realignment. It’s not as easy as “ya’ll merge up”. It reflects the lack of understanding of the leagues, and the problem.
CUSA is not a bad league with bad programs. There are good teams, good ideas, and NFL-caliber players running around representing these schools. No, the problem is that there is very little money and support for these programs compared with the competitors in the big leagues.
Some of the discussion following the CR post included phrasing like: “moving up the ladder” and “getting to the next step”. Tech’s AD mentioned ULL wanting to “move up”. This all suggests there is a progression, a ladder, some kind of hierarchy of quality with the Belt and CUSA at or near the bottom.
As we stated above, that is not necessarily true. The Belt had Troy, and Arkansas State and Appalachian State with really good programs the last half-decade. North Texas blew out SMU just two seasons ago and was joined by WKU in beating SEC-member Arkansas.
What they are saying is that there is a revenue hierarchy. That is true. When directors talk about “moving up” they really mean getting better revenue options. In 2020, that means television. Unfortunately, now is a strange time to be looking to drink from that well. While there is plenty of money available for the SEC and Big Ten, there is not so much for the Pac 12. There is even less for CUSA and the Belt.
While the most recent deals are improvements or are net positives, they are not close to being ideal. The palatial stadiums, locker rooms and other programs are building exacerbate the recruiting disadvantage and make it difficult to compete. And while there are always donors to fill the coffers, there is nothing quite like an annual payment of $54 million to help the budget balance.
Name, Image, and Likeness regulations are coming from the federal and state levels and programs are anticipating a cost increase associated with it. The judgements holding back a complete dismantling of the entire amateur system are also a risk coming soon. The unanticipated costs associated with a global pandemic do not make it easy to run these leagues. Without the big money coming in, a league like CUSA is vulnerable because its member institutions are. (Generally speaking.)
Deep-pocked persons, institutions, companies, and groups are better insulated when there is a revenue crisis. This is not controversial.
Speaking of revenue-generation, North Texas, Middle, and Western Kentucky have all publicly discussed plans for a return of their coaches and players.
- Denton Record-Chronicle: UNT formulates plan.
- Murfreesboro Daily News Journal: MTSU has no timetable.
- Louisville Courier Journal: WKU plans to return June 8
Given the sports world is slowly reopening, CR is doing the same. We previously paused memberships as we reacted to the pandemic. There is a new pricing model. If you previously subscribed, you should have received an email with a coupon. If not, there is a sign up coupon available on the Membership page.