Old Dominion to Conference USA, UPDATED: ODU Lays Out Particulars


Editor’s Note: Updated at 12:07 p.m. PT with quotes from the Old Dominion press conference.

“Football was a driving consideration.”

So said Old Dominion University president John R. Broderick Thursday, officially announcing the school’s move to Conference USA and thus, the Bowl Subdivision. Broderick and ODU AD Cameron Wood Selig addressed the media in a press conference appropriately held at Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium.

“When I was hired, it was conveyed that one of my primary goals was protecting our athletic program in the ever-changing landscape of college athletics,” Wood Selig said. “[Recent conference realignment] volatility dictated now was the time [for movement].

Significant driving force was opportunity to reclassify football…where we will become only the third such member in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” he added.

Let there be no doubt that any and all changes made in conferences is the direct result of football, even for those universities without it.

The Colonial says goodbye to its third football-playing member since this latest round of realignment began. Georgia State departed for the Sun Belt, while Charlotte’s yet-to-play football program was committed to a Colonial partnership. UMass bid adieu last summer, bound for the MAC. A fifth partner, Rhode Island, is reducing its number of allotted scholarships to compete in the Northeast Conference. What all this translates to for a conference powerful in on-field product, but lacking in the financial strength FBS can offer is a whole lot of question marks.

Such instability in turn affects schools like George Mason, a power in CAA basketball but without a football program.

A hope that programs transitioning into FBS share is one Wood Selig vocalized.

“Reclassification puts ODU at the table for every discussion for the future of intercollegiate atheltics…[and helps ODU athletics] shape our own destination,” he said.

Meanwhile for C-USA, the question was not is Conference USA done expanding, but rather who would it pursue, and if its magic number is 14 or 16. The latter remains to be seen, but in the meantime ODU is No. 14. David Teel first reported the news at a little after 9:30 ET on Thursday morning.

C-USA has replaced the four members it lost to the Big East — UCF, Memphis, Houston and SMU — with six: UT-San Antonio, North Texas, Louisiana Tech, FIU, Charlotte and now ODU. The resounding message it’s sent is that market value trumps all in conference’s desperate struggle to keep pace with the Joneses. Aside from La. Tech, every addition is a top 50 television market. Per TV By The Numbers, the breakdown is:

5. Dallas-Ft. Worth/approx. 2.5 million, 2.175 percent of US households (North Texas)

16. Miami-Ft. Lauderdale/approx. 1.5 million, 1.352 percent (FIU)

24. Charlotte/approx. 1.1 million, 0.981 percent

37. San Antonio/ 818,560, 0.715 percent (UTSA)

43. Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News/718,020, 0.627 percent (ODU)

What C-USA is adding in potential viewers is directly disproportionate to what’s coming in experience. UTSA just began varsity football last season. Charlotte’s football program is still just a concept, not officially kicking off until 2013.

ODU is entering just its fourth season since resurrecting football. In its defense though, the on-field product has been high quality. ODU reached the 2011 NCAA Playoffs out of the competitive CAA.

“The success of Coach [Bobby] Wilder gave us confidence we could make this step,” Broderick said.

The Monarchs figure to be a pre-season FCS top 10 and once again compete for the postseason — assuming they are eligible. Reclassifying programs typically are not eligible, nor considered official members of their conference. Texas State and UMass faced such propositions last season, though neither finished in playoff contention.

ODU faces a much longer process than the Bobcats and Minutemen, both of which had one-year turnover from their accepting of FBS conference bids to their official departures. The Monarchs will not join C-USA until 2015.

The next three years allots the university time to raise money for the substantial $2 million entrance fee owed C-USA, as well as the $250,000 due to CAA for exit. While the football program has enjoyed much early success — Wood Selig said he “anticipate[s] being sold out for a fourth consecutive year in season tickets” — roughly $2.3 million is a considerable chunk of change, virtually offsetting the $3 million Wood Selig cited raising from private outlets “in anticipation of…reclassification.”