These are drastic financial times in college sports.
Locally, high-ranking West Virginia University and Marshall University officials are taking voluntary pay cuts.
Regionally, Ohio University is laying off 140 employees and the provost and president are taking pay cuts. The University of Dayton has furloughed 500 employees.
Nationally, Boise State is furloughing coaches due to a $10 million deficit. Kansas University head basketball coach Bill Self, head football coach Les Miles and athletic director Jeff Long took 10 percent salary reductions for six months.
Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic has created a financial pandemic in the suddenly shaky world of college athletics.
That is particularly true in far-flung Conference USA, which stretches from west Texas to the East Coast to south Florida. The far-reaching nature of C-USA’s 14 members has created a significant financial crunch due to escalating travel expenses.
The league is trying to find ways around it, but the bottom line is UTEP is located in El Paso, Texas, and Old Dominion is stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.
Neither is going to relocate.
So what’s the answer?
Well, drastic times often force drastic solutions, so here’s an idea. What if select members of C-USA and the Sun Belt left their respective conferences and formed a new, more geographically sensible 16-school league?
Here it is:
n Marshall, Huntington, West Virginia
n Western Kentucky, Bowling Green, Kentucky
n Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina
n Old Dominion, Norfolk, Virginia
n Middle Tennessee, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
n UAB, Birmingham, Alabama
n Southern Miss, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
n Florida Atlantic, Boca Raton, Florida
n Florida International, Miami
n Appalachian State, Boone, North Carolina
n Coastal Carolina, Conway, South Carolina
n Troy, Troy, Alabama
n South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama
n Georgia Southern, Statesboro, Georgia
n Georgia State, Atlanta
That’s 15. The 16th member would involve James Madison, located in Harrisonburg, Virginia, to move up from FCS to FBS status.
Now, here is the financial key to this league. There would be two eight-school divisions, based on geography.
The North Division would include Marshall, Western Kentucky, Old Dominion, Charlotte, Middle Tennessee, Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina and James Madison.
The South Division would include Troy, UAB, Southern Miss, Florida Atlantic, FIU, Georgia State, Georgia Southern and South Alabama.
This is where the savings on travel joins the equation.
The round trip for Marshall to play at James Madison would be 480 miles. Next, the round trip for Marshall to play at Appalachian State would be 548 miles.
Next closest is Western Kentucky at 566 miles round trip, followed by Charlotte (632 miles), Middle Tennessee (748 miles), Old Dominion (922 miles) and Coastal Carolina (962 miles).
The round-trip mileage for the South Division would be near the same.
In these financially strapped times, travel expenses in Group of Five conferences have become THE bottom line.
That’s why sometimes people have to think outside the … well, gas tank.