The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm summarizes the latest concerning the realignment of NCAA Division I conferences:
- The Mountain West Conference and Conference USA announced a plan to merge their football operations into a mega-conference consisting of 20-24 teams beginning in 2013. During a Friday (October 14, 2011) conference call, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson stated: ”I’m just trying to create stability – greater stability – so we’re not talking about membership issues.” Thompson and Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky believed the proposed merger would provide the conferences’ top member institutions the needed security to prevent their need to join other conferences. For example, the Mountain West-Conference USA football merger was made to counter recent plans by other conferences, including the Big East Conference, to invite universities to join their operations.
- The leaders of Big East Conference member institutions agreed on a plan to invite Boise State University, the United States Air Force Academy (Air Force) and the United States Naval Academy (Navy) as football-only members and the University of Central Florida in all sports. The Big East plans to double the exit fee for current members to $10 million after the invited schools join the conference. Media reports indicate the University of Houston and SMU may receive invitations to the Big East as full members. There is speculation Temple University may be considered to re-join the Big East. The Big East’s plans may involve an attempt to increases it current membership to 12 schools (after recent defections to the Atlantic Coast Conference).
The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm has advised, and continues to recommend, NCAA member institutions conduct annual discussions (among all significant decision makers and stakeholders) on the short- and long-term strategic and tactical needs of the athletics department in several areas, including, but not limited to, competitive success and program development. The implementation of any strategies and tactics in the areas of competitive success and program development may involve or require changes in conference membership. Colleges and universities should be ready to make immediate decisions on conference membership that adheres to a strategic plan if another round of conference re-alignment occurs in the next five years.