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Pirate Notebook No. 431
Monday, May 24, 2010

Denny O'Brien

Opportunity missed by schools' CEO's

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

You canít blame Britton Banowsky for not being proactive. Itís not his fault Conference USA refuses to think outside the box.

When Banowsky revealed last week at the leagueís annual spring meetings that he proposed the possibility of expanding to 16 teams in Destin last year, it dispelled a pretty big assumption that many around Greenville have had about the C-USA commissioner.

Clearly, he isnít just a champion of the status quo who is completely obsessed with Texas.

The problem with C-USA isnít the leadership in its conference office. Itís the leadership at its member institutions that lacks a cohesive athletics vision.

Perhaps thatís because athletics arenít an influential force on many of the campuses around C-USA. There is no other explanation for why conference presidents refused to even consider the possibility of upping membership to 16.

Wonder if they are regretting that decision today?

It is clear that conference expansion again could alter the structure of C-USA, and once again the league will find itself reacting out of necessity for survival if it does.

In other words, C-USA will have to select from the Division I dregs should it lose one or more members to more predatory leagues.

But maybe it didnít have to be that way. Maybe C-USA could have been the more carnivorous conference last year by taking a preemptive step towards assuring its validity in major college football.

Seriously, it shouldnít have been too much to ask conference presidents and athletics directors to form a task force to research and propose expansion scenarios for consideration. Or, if that would have required too much effort, they could have simply hired a consulting firm to do the work for them.

Iím guessing either scenario would have required too much time and thought. Either that or most of C-USA is completely content with relegation to Tuesday and Wednesday night football broadcasts on ESPN, staged in mostly empty stadiums.

There is no question that, by increasing to 16, it would have called for C-USA to significantly expand its geographic footprint. Big deal. There are ways of doing that without stretching the coffers any thinner than they already are.

For starters, adding four viable football programs (Troy? Middle Tennessee? Nevada? and... donít laugh... Boise State?) would have increased revenue streams from postseason bowls and television. With more bowls and a better TV deal, perhaps that would offset any additional travel costs league schools might incur from expansion.

It most certainly would if league presidents, in a 16-school scenario, decided to eliminate mandatory cross-divisional play until each sport reached the postseason. Truthfully, that would be the smart way to go.

But itís obviously not the route C-USA school presidents wanted to take last year. It would have required too much creative thinking and extra work with scheduling for them to do so.

Even so, itís no secret that several C-USA institutions would leave for a BCS Automatic Qualifier conference tomorrow, and nothing outside of the league earning AQ status itself could prevent that. So in that regard, perhaps taking the proactive expansion approach would have been futile regardless.


O'Brien: Opportunity missed by schools' CEO's
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Myatt: Wiley descends from mountain to help Ruff

Even in a climate where conference expansion is the hottest topic in sports, no one can predict exactly how the next shift is going to play out. We could be looking at the ĎBig Oneí or something as uneventful as the Big Ten adding one school to secure a football championship game.

If the latter occurs, C-USAís member administrators clearly missed the mark. It would have been an opportunity to upgrade the conference's football profile and enhance its appeal to bowl and television executives.

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05/24/2010 02:04 AM

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