PHOENIX, November 30, 2012 — If you are having trouble following the revolving door that is NCAA conference realignment, you are not alone. It’s almost impossible to explain like Donald Trump’s hair, Gangnam Style or how to assemble IKEA furniture over the phone.
This week the Big East added Tulane and East Carolina while Louisville left for the ACC and Rutgers left for the Big Ten. Next week, who knows? As Kevin Garnett once screamed, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.”
Football programs, which account for the majority of total revenue generated by all college sports, get the largest say in making these decisions.
Many joked this week that the Big East would be looking to add schools like ITT Tech, Devry and The University of Phoenix. I laughed. Then I thought about it and asked around.
Why Not University of Phoenix?
To my surprise, a case can be made for adding the latter to the Big East by 2020. They have a stadium. University of Phoenix stadium was built in 2006, holds 63,400 and is located in Glendale, Arizona. They have a large metro area to draw attendance. 3.2 million people live in the Phoenix metro area. Tempe, where Arizona State plays is 20 minutes away but the area is large enough to support two teams, especially if they play in different conferences. They have a famous student to help with recruiting. Future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald is finishing his degree at The University of Phoenix.
Florida International built an FBS program, formerly called Division I, from scratch in less than eight years. In their ninth year, they were playing in a bowl game.
Beyond general guidelines the NCAA has five key requirements to becoming an FBS program. Requirements include (1) averaging at least 15,000 in attendance, (2) sponsoring at least 16 sports, (3) scheduling at least 60% of games against FBS schools, (4) providing at least 90% of the maximum allowed football scholarships and (5) 200 total athletic scholarships.
Attendance Is the Key
The University of Phoenix would have little difficulty meeting those requirements. They have the finances, facilities and potential fan base to become an FBS program.
Tony Knopp, CEO of Spotlight Ticket Management, crunched the numbers and agreed with my assumption that averaging 15,000 in attendance would not be a problem for The University of Phoenix. With that level of attendance, The University of Phoenix could fund and support 16 sports, 200 scholarships and schedule the right opponents.
Knopp jokingly added, “It clearly makes more sense to have eight schools in the same state (Louisiana) all playing in different conferences across the country. Who would actually want to have regional rivalries when there are big bucks at stake? How dare you claim college sports is all about the money? Only now, due to these changes, will we finally get closure on the court and field between those Boise St. and UConn fans that so often run into one another around town.”
It’s unlikely that The University of Phoenix will join the Big East by 2020. Just as unlikely as it may have once been to see the conference add Boise State and San Diego State. Both will join the Big East in 2013.
Conference realignment is entertaining, if nothing else. The motivations can be argued as questionable but administrators are all looking for ways to ensure future success. Eventually each school will settle in to place and order will be restored.
Until then, I get to daydream about what mascot the University of Phoenix would choose. A Phoenix seems redundant.
Jeff Barrett is the CEO of Status Creative, the Tri-Cities record holder for most strikeouts in Tee-Ball and hasn’t forgiven Chris Webber for calling timeout in 1993.
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