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Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky (left) and FAU AD Pat Chun concluded the C-USA winter meetings in Miami with a press conference. ( photo)


Long-term leap

Analysis: Move to Conference USA won't be an immediate financial windfall, but is still the right step to move FAU forward.

Originally published on 1/23/2013

by Chuck King

MIAMI - Much has been made about the potential revenue windfall FAU will receive by joining Conference USA.

Don't expect to see new basketball arenas, baseball fields or gold-plated goal posts right away.

FAU will have to make that $700,000 exit fee payout to the Sun Belt in one lump sum before July 1. It has also already paid $500,000 to join C-USA, essentially the first of four such payments over the next four years.

Plus, C-USA has an annual membership fee of $300,000, compared to $80,000 in the Sun Belt.

Even with a split of television fees that should exceed $1 million each year and significantly more bowl revenue generated by C-USA tie ins, FAU Athletic Director Pat Chun concedes that this move may not immediately produce a gusher of added revenue for the athletic department.

"We will reap the reward for this down the road as soon as we pay off our exit fees and our entry fees," he said. "This was always about setting up this university for the future. Strategically it's the right thing for the university."

To understand and appreciate the move, look beyond the early effects on the bottom line.

This move brings a level of prestige. This jump restores hope that FAU is headed in the right direction. It's a reason to believe.

Part of the beauty of the move is that C-USA wants to help FAU cultivate a fan base. For starters, look no further than the teams that will play in FAU's stadium next season.

"We are going to get a ticket spike having Tulane in our stadium, having FIU in our stadium, having Marshall in our stadium - those are all brand names that we want to have in our stadium," Chun said.

The Owls will also visit Rice, Southern Miss, UAB, and East Carolina (leaving for the Big East in 2014),with games against the Blazers and the Pirates being divisional match-ups.

Those names certainly have more resonance than Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas St. and whichever FCS team joins the Sun Belt in the coming years.

C-USA also plans to help FAU fill those seats by launching a marketing campaign that will feature print, electronic and internet advertising, along with what C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky termed "very aggressive social marketing." Look for those campaigns to begin in late spring.

Banowsky was in Miami for the C-USA winter meetings, during which time the athletic directors, including Chun, focused on membership, television, marketing and bowls games.

He elected not to go into depth about reports that the five non-BCS conferences, of which C-USA is one, were developing a three-tiered revenue sharing plan for the BCS playoffs, but did add that C-USA is willing to work with anyone.

"In this world if you are not collaborating with people then you are not performing at your optimum," Banowsky said. "The key is to not be our own worst enemies and work together."

Tuesday's announcement that FAU will become a member of C-USA for the 2013 season showed that that Owls' new conference is eagerly looking forward to FAU's membership.

Banowsky professed to being "so impressed" by the Owls football stadium and realizes it might take a little while for FAU to upgrade some of the other facilities.

"We talked about that - there are expectations," Banowsky said. "We are going to continue to develop expectations because we  have a strong need for quality control across the board, but each institution is different. They are each in different phases of maturity and development. We just have to make sure everyone is moving forward and we're improving on all fronts."

It sounds like Banowsky understands that FAU's financial issues aren't solved overnight by this move. But Conference USA is willing to work to ensure that FAU can become the kind of athletic program Owl fans envision.

Again - a reason to believe.

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Breakdown Box

C-USA Nuggets

  • FAU knows which football teams it will play, but not when it will play them. If the Owls aren't granted a home game during the second week of the season, it's likely they won't play their first home game until late September.
  • The C-USA championship game will not be moved to a neutral site. It will continue to be at the home stadium of the highest-ranked school.
  • If Tulsa, which reportedly has been talking with other conferences, or any other school chooses to leave C-USA, it won't be able to do so before 2013. The school would have needed to give notification before July 1, 2012. "Our bylaws are pretty strict when it comes to that," Banowsky said.
  • The basketball schedule is likely to feature a round-robin approach where FAU plays every other conference team once, along with one home-and-home match-up against a rival. In FAU's case that would be FIU.

C-USA Divisions for 2013
(football opponents in itallics)

East Carolina A
Marshall H
Southern Miss A
Old Dominion (in 2014)

La. Tech
North Texas
Rice A
Tulane H
Texas-San Antonio
UNC-Charlotte (2014)



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