Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky teleconference transcript
This is a really great day for us and for me. It's not often that a Commissioner can announce the addition of five new members to the conference on the same day. It's a really exciting time for us here.
The details of the new member plan are outlined in the media materials, so I'm not going to repeat that information. I do, however, want to make a few comments about the plan before taking questions.
First, while they're different, each school possesses the same basic attribute — they are growing and they are increasing relevant to their significant and large communities. In each case, we asked ourselves where will they be in 10 and 20 years from now? And in each case, we really liked and were impressed by the answers. We know that the future will be bright for them and for us. So our first focus was large institutions and growing markets.
Second, we wanted to ensure that the institutions would give us a competitive lift - not only in football, which is important, obviously, but in other sports like baseball, soccer and basketball. We know that is the case when you look at some of the history and tradition in some of these programs. There are great stories to tell. When you look at some of the recent competitive success, you know that they're on the right trajectory and on the right path. We're certainly going to get a competitive lift from this new grouping of institutions.
We are a large conference and we're getting larger. But we know that to be effective, we have to be both nationally and regionally relevant. This is why our third focus area is on the continued development of geographically sound divisions. We need to connect schools and divisions in a way that makes sense for the fans, for the rivalries, but more importantly for the student-athletes. The initial reaction of many is that, if you have members from North Carolina to El Paso, it doesn't make sense. The truth is, divisional, regular season scheduling has always been a key for us. The bottom line is that student-athletes need to be able to get to their competition and then get back to campus, missing a minimal amount of class time. That will certainly happen in this conference given the grouping of institutions that we have brought in and the opportunity for divisional scheduling models.
Our plan not only looked at the institutions in exhaustive detail, but we also considered the quality of the leadership at the institutions. Ultimately, it is the people that make a great university and the people who make a great conference. We have been blessed over the years with wonderful leadership in this conference and it is obvious that this new group will only make us stronger.
Finally, notwithstanding the media speculation, our discussions with our good friends in the Mountain West continue. Each conference knows that we are much stronger working together than we are working apart. What form the partnership will ultimately take remains to be seen, but please know that we share a lot of things in common and we continue to work well together.
We are extremely pleased with how nicely all of this came together and we're fired up about the future of the conference.
How soon would you like to get to 14 [conference members], is that a priority and do you have a drop-dead deadline for when you could do that and have them playing by 2013?
"In order to get teams in by 2013, we would need to do something by June 30. We really don't have a drop-dead deadline. I think the sense of our membership is that we do want to be on an even number and larger than 13, but we have a little bit of time. We have enough members to host a football championship game in 2013 already. We're going to take our time, but we're still focused on growing."
Can you address what the divisions will look like?
"We haven't really sat down and talked about how the divisions will line up. We have a lot of different options. We haven't decided about that."
Is there a chance for nine league games during football season?
"We also haven't focused too much about the number of conference football games. I think we have had a good experience playing eight games. I'm not hearing a lot of folks saying that we need to move to nine. Short of that, I think we'll stay at eight."
What is the timeline for a decision about the C-USA/Mountain West structure?
"I think this is a process that is going to take a while. We'll have conversations again in June and try to understand if something is doable for 2013. Ultimately, the conversations may extend into the start of 2014. But the bottom line and takeaway is that the conferences really know that there is something here and there is a potential to work together. We're just trying to figure out the best way to do that. We really aren't working on a set timeline right now."
Multiple media outlets mentioned a sixth addition to C-USA. Is there a timeline for when that decision would be made? Is there a contingency plan if that school falls through?
"I'm not going to comment about particular schools. You know that you can't always believe what you read, particularly when there is so much media activity as we have these days. We are going to take our time. We're going to be thoughtful. We can certainly exist with 13 schools. I think the preference would be to have more than 13, but we're not going to rush into it. We want not only the conference to be comfortable, but any new institution to be comfortable. These things are big decisions and we want them to be made thoughtfully and thoroughly and in a well-informed way."
What are the possibilities for UTSA serving as host to a league basketball championship or as part of bowl game with venues like the Alamodome and AT&T Center?
"We're so impressed by the work that's being done at UTSA and the community of San Antonio. I have been in Texas for a long time, so I know how dynamic and vibrant that community is and how much it has to offer. As we introduced the possibility to the other members in the conference, people were really taken aback by the potential and wonderful opportunity that a relationship with not only the city of San Antonio but, more importantly, UTSA is. Whether or not we have a bowl game, a football championship game or basketball tournament down there, I can't speak to that. I can tell you that it would be a wonderful venue for any of those things."
What is the significance of June 30 as it relates to membership? Does it have to do with exit fees?
"Not so much about exit fees, but it's about us being able to transitions institutions from one conference to another in an orderly way -- football schedules get made out in advance, scheduling occurs in other sports well in advance - and other conferences have to make reactionary decisions to decision that impact them. To move a university inside of a one-year time frame is really very volatile. So much change over a short amount of time is volatile by nature. I think a more orderly approach is better and that's why a year out is important."
Is there any concern about teams transitioning from FCS to FBS and their ability to compete in the league?
"The competitiveness of the programs is to be seen. I don't think you can speculate about whether the program will come in and be competitive or not. I've seen programs get started and be very competitive, very quickly. I just don't know about that. In terms of if you have too much growth trajectory over too short a time, I think these markets are about to explode. I think these universities are about to explode. We have a good sense that they are all going to get better in the future. How much better and how soon, I don't know. They're all going to get better, including the ones just moving from FCS to FBS."
How important is geography in the expansion plans?
"We're very cognizant of it. As we talked about how we were going to strategically approach this, we knew that we needed to create divisions, as best we could, that are geographically sound — so that fans can travel, so that student-athletes can get there and get back and so we can start building rivalries and creating new rivalries. It's really important. We're just trying to fill in our footprint with the right universities and then develop the right scheduling models that are very efficient to not only save money, but to save time and allow fans to travel."