While FAU intends to be a member of Conference USA beginning in the fall of 2014, there is still a chance the move could happen in time for next season.
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BOCA RATON - Could Florida Atlantic's move to Conference USA actually happen in the fall of 2013?
FAU Athletic Director Pat Chun isn't ruling out that possibility.
"We are working on our exit strategy with the Sun Belt Conference," Chun told OwlAccess.com. "We're working on our entry strategy with Conference USA. If I had to give you a date it would be fall of 2014 but I guess until everything is signed and agreed upon... Hopefully we can get there sooner but if not we will be responsible members of the Sun Belt until that time."
That statement (VIDEO) came following Thursday's press conference at which FAU announced the Owls' move from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA.
C-USA's press release announcing the acceptance of FAU into the conference states that the Owls' membership "will begin no later than July 1, 2014."
"We'll be happy to take on FAU in 2013 but we are going to be extremely respectful toward the needs of the Sun Belt Conference," C-USA spokesman Courtney Morrison Archer said. "I don't think we are pushing anything but we will see how it goes. If they think they can come for 2013 we would certainly welcome them."
FAU's ability to participate as a member of C-USA beginning in 2013 will likely be determined by the Sun Belt's willingness to allow the move and the Owls' ability to pay the Sun Belt's asking price.
Earlier this year Sun Belt members agreed that schools who did not provide "timely notice" of their intention to leave the conference would have to pay a $1 million buyout.
It's not clear whether that buyout could be applied even if FAU chooses to wait until the fall of 2014 to become a member of C-USA.
"Right now we are having legal look at it," Sun Belt spokesman John McElwain said.
It's possible that FAU will be asked to make that million dollar payment on top of forfeiting the final year's share of Sun Belt revenue - the previous Sun Belt buyout.
While having to pay an additional million dollars likely wouldn't keep FAU from making the jump to Conference USA, it could be enough to prevent the cash-strapped Owls from making the move for 2013. FAU will also have to come up with an entrance fee reportedly in the neighborhood of $2 million to join C-USA, though those payments are often stretched out over the course of several years allowing the money to be taken from the new member's share of the conference revenue.
The move to C-USA could provide an immediate increase in revenue for FAU. Last year C-USA schools are believed to have received close to $2 million apiece from television contracts, bowl and tournament appearances. That amount of money, however, could fall in the coming years now that basketball powerhouse Memphis and football mid-majors Houston, Central Florida, Southern Methodist and East Carolina are leaving C-USA.
Will the Sun Belt and FAU be able to strike some sort of deal on the exit fee?
"That conversation has not taken place between the Sun Belt and FAU board members," McElwain said.
Still, it appears there is at least a chance that FAU will be a member of C-USA for the 2013 season.
"This is a business - at the end of the day and we are going to do what is best for FAU," Chun said.