Opinion: Real talk with Ryne: Conference USA move means green for UNT

Opinion: Real talk with Ryne: Conference USA move means green for UNT

March 28
20:41 2013

Ryne Gannoe / Senior Staff Writer

It seems no team in the changing athletic conference landscape is safe.

The Big East looks more and more like Conference USA with every additional school. Although unconfirmed, Tulsa could join its ex-Conference USA compatriots in the Big East. Making room for another Sun Belt team, rumored to be Western Kentucky, in C-USA.

The jury is out on whether or not C-USA, also known as the “super Sun Belt” is really an upgrade for UNT anymore.

Middle Tennessee, Florida International and Florida Atlantic joined the Mean Green in its move. While SMU, Houston, Central Florida and Memphis leave before the new members arrive this year. The conference rookies will get one shot at Tulane and East Carolina before they move on.

Alabama Birmingham, Marshall, Southern Miss, Rice and Texas-El Paso remain, but even that isn’t a guarantee.

There will be new C-USA freshmen in this new class as well: Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech, North Carolina at Charlotte and Texas-San Antonio.

The level of competition may be closer than a lot of people liked. At first, the move was heralded by fans as a great move for the Mean Green, and as more of the Sun Belt tagged along the attitude began to change.

The bottom line of every conference move is not competition, it’s money. Conference USA has five-year TV deals with CBS College Sports and Fox. Each school stands to make about $1.17 million annually.

Currently, a Sun Belt Conference TV contract will be renegotiated, but they aren’t making money right now. It’s pretty much a million dollar gain for UNT and the other Sun Belt defectors. That’s a pretty good investment to continue doing what you are doing. Plus, more TV time, especially major network time, is more exposure. Not very many tune into the Thursday night football game on ESPN 2. The C-USA deal is good until 2016, that’s a fair amount of promised cashed.

The idea of a merger of conferences like the Mountain West and C-USA or C-USA and the Sun Belt could change the landscape of collegiate sports, but the likelihood of sharing one automatic bid for championship tournaments, re-planning TV deals and splitting the pie isn’t feasible.

Everyone is trying to climb the conference ladder. Everyone wants in the SEC, who under its new deal stands to make a cool $34 million per school by 2014. To put that into perspective, that’s $1 million dollars less Fox’s contract with C-USA is worth.

It’s a step up the ladder for the Mean Green, but it’s a long way to the top.

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