Superdestroyer and I have gone back and forth on the future of lower-level athletics, with him believing that there is none and that before long schools will start dropping football programs and myself believing that (while some may) most will hold on and take the financial loss.

The University of Hawaii is talking about dropping its football program:

Athletic director Ben Jay on Monday asked officials to help lobby the state for $3 million to help keep the the school’s athletic teams competitive or it may have to consider a reduction in sports, according to a report in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and KITV-4 News.

“There is a very real possibility of football going away,” Jay said under questioning by members of the Board of Regents Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, the Star-Advertiser said.

But, he said, “but even if football goes away, all the revenues that football drives goes away and then it becomes a costlier venture for the university.”

Alex_Green_Hawaii_WarriorsMost likely, he’s bluffing to get the state to cough up more money. The other FBS programs that have talked about dropping their programs (San Jose State, Rice, and Tulane) haven’t. Further, Hawaii is in the Mountain West Conference which is presently in a better financial position than those other schools in terms of revenue.

On the other hand, Hawaii is not a school that necessarily benefits from having a football program. The benefits are mostly comparative, and Hawaii has almost no competition within its state and appeals to a particular kind of student outside of its state. While having a football program or not may be the difference between having heard of Georgia State and not having heard of it, and mentally comparing Georgia State to Georgia Southern, the University of Hawaii has the benefit of being the flagship state university of our nation’s most unique state.

Which is how they have stayed competitive despite numerous disadvantages. I was stunned when I read an account of why June Jones made the lateral move to SMU. He had no recruiting budget and had to actually recruit players that had either never been to the campus or payed their own way to visit it. The facilities are in exceptionally bad shape. They do seem among the more vulnerable to dropping their program.

Other than the realignment ramifications – explored below – Hawaii exiting football would have two effects. Since Hawaii is in a particular position, I wouldn’t expect other schools to start suddenly re-evaluating football. It would, however, put an end to one of the pecularities of FBS football, which is that the NCAA allows teams that make the trip to Hawaii the opportunity to play a 13th regular season game. It is an effort to induce teams to take the long and expensive trip out. The second is the almost certain demise of the Hawaii Bowl, which was pretty much set up solely for the sake of giving Hawaii a place to play during bowl season. Typically, the the participants in the bowl are teams that have trouble filling their own stadium, and aren’t going to bring crowds to the Aloha State. While it’s a reward for players on teams that become bowl eligible, it’s an even greater money-sink than most bowl games and the visiting teams don’t even bring their marching bands due to cost.

Which must have the University of Idaho absolutely salivating. Idaho’s football program is currently languishing in the southern-based Sun Belt Conference while they wait for an invitation to the MWC. Unfortunately for U of I, they will probably be disappointed. Not just because UH isn’t likely to drop its program, but because if they do they are at best third in line. The first position being BYU, who is unlikely to be interested. The second position being UTEP.

UTEP-QBUTEP is also probably closely monitoring the situation. They left the WAC for Conference USA in part for schools that have left Conference USA. There were rumors that they had tried to get into the MWC and were rebuffed. If they can afford the Conference USA exit fee, they’d probably gladly accept the invitation. As things stand now, they’re playing second-fiddle to their sister school in San Antonio. Both in the UT system, both with the same colors, except with UTSA having far more potential as a program. Geographically, they are a better fit for the MWC as well. For the MWC, they would be able to claim the El Paso market and have a presence in Texas (albeit barely).

If UTEP did make the move, then Conference USA would probably need to move to replace them. Last time around, Western Kentucky beat out New Mexico State for the slot. There is a strong likelihood that UTEP played a role in keeping New Mexico State out, and with UTEP out of the picture NMSU may be able to step right in. Though Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette have been mentioned as potential candidates, neither seem particularly likely to me. Both other competitiveness, but Arkansas State doesn’t offer much of a region or market and has a lackluster academic profile. Louisiana-Lafayette has the academic profile, but not much of a market. More likely is that they would skip straight to Georgia State, which has made it clear that they are working to invest heavily in getting their fledgling program off the ground (plus: Atlanta!). Since UTEP itself isn’t very good, they can afford for the replacement not to be very good. Another possibility would be Massachusetts, which is looking for a home for its football program. However, that’s unlikely as UMass wants to keep its non-football sports where they are and the last time C*USA had this choice (with Temple) they were uninterested in football-only members.

The Sun Belt, whether losing Idaho or some school to Conference USA, would probably not expand.


Category: Theater

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

12 Responses to UHawaii to Cancel Football?

  1. fillyjonk says:

    If I were picking a larger school to drop its program, Hawaii would be one of the first ones I thought of. The whole traveling to games thing is much more involved and expensive for them – and nearly all their games would involve long distance travel either for them or the team they’re playing (Does Hawaii even HAVE another university with a football program?)

    Most smaller schools, where one might expect the program to be dropped, well, in my experience their competitors tend to be a bus ride away. Maybe a longish and boring bus ride, but still, a bus ride.

    • trumwill says:

      Not with football, I don’t think. That other UHawaii campus (Hilo), BYU-Hawaii, and that school Sarah Palin went to (Hawaii Pacific University) do have sports programs, though.

  2. superdestroyer says:

    I would put NMSU on the death watch list. NMSU was the school that last year received all of the bad press for trying to bribe the students to stay until the second half or to even come to the game.

    The last thing any university would want is to be seen as a door mat school that even the students do not care about. See how Deadspin mocked the university of Illinois last year for lack of fan support. http://deadspin.com/the-illinois-student-section-is-the-saddest-1465931514

    If a Power Conference school can been seen as a loser, image what the schools in the MWC or AAC are going to be portrayed as.

    I am just waiting for the first university president and board of regents (or whatever the loca term is) to decide to end the farce and put an end to sports at some school. I think the positive media coverage will be worth a lot more than being seen as a door mat.

    • trumwill says:

      Think of it from the perspective of a university president at NMSU. Chances are, that’s not your destination job. You want to get a job at another, higher-profile school.

      The most recent former president was fired. Before that was a president (Michael V Martin) who left NMSU to take a position at LSU. The one before that was Jay Gogue, who left NMSU for the University of Houston and then Auburn.

      Now, do you think that being the guy who killed NMSU athletics would make Houston, LSU, and Auburn more likely or less to hire him? Do you think they are more likely to say “Now there is a guy who minds his dollars and cents!” or “There’s a guy who may not understand our commitment to athletics”?

      If you’re the president of NMSU, and you eventually want a job at UTEP and then Texas Tech, then you want to do whatever you can for the athletics program.

      Illinois gets grief precisely because they are a Power Conference program. Your attendance has to be much worse to get that sort of attention if you’re not. You have to be Eastern Michigan or UAB, or you have to get caught juking the stats (and even then, comparatively few care).

      Now, to speak specifically of NMSU, they are in a bit of a pickle because of their conference situation. It’s unlikely that they would be close to the front of the line to close shop*, but it’s a little less unlikely now than it was before the WAC imploded.

      The AAC and MWC are among the least vulnerable, unless you’re Hawaii. Conference USA isn’t particularly vulnerable either. Individual programs like UAB may be, but they can restock relatively easily. The only caveat is what their next TV contract looks like.

      The two that are on the border are the MAC and the Sun Belt. Particularly the latter, as the MAC has limited travel costs and what seems to be a collective agreement to pay their coaches very little. The Sun Belt exists mostly because of the ambitions of programs to get into better conferences. The bottom could fall out of that more easily.

      Though “the bottom falling out” would more likely consist of dropping down into more regional FCS conferences than dropping sports altogether. Below FBS is FCS, and below that Division II and below that Division III. That these lower levels exist demonstrates, to me, that schools aren’t really embarrassed by not being USC or Alabama.

      • trumwill says:

        A quick follow-up on this: The MAC has apparently signed a new TV contract that gets them out of the gutter, up to about what used to be WAC levels. From $80k per team per year to $660k per team per year. That, combined with relatively low operational expenses, puts them in a pretty decent position to persevere.

        • superdestroyer says:

          $660K is about what a MAC school gets paid to be blow out by Ohio State, Penn State or Wisconsin. That is not a lot of money.

          Every kid at a MAC university in Ohio really wanted to go to Ohio State but could not get in. Why not get rid of the sports programs at those schools and let the students just be the fans of Ohio State that they naturally are?

        • trumwill says:

          To be honest, I find it astonishing the number of Ohio schools with FBS football programs. BUT! That’s what they want, and they have a skin in the game that we don’t. And things are just astonishingly bad at Eastern Michigan, and their persistence just puzzles me.

          The new TV contract is in addition to, rather than instead of, the money they make for the bodybag games. If the Power Conference schools ever make good on what some of their coaches are saying about refusing to play outside the P5, a lot of schools are going to be in pretty big trouble. It’s hard to take their words so seriously, though, when they’re still scheduling FCS teams.

  3. superdestroyer says:

    If a president at NMSU dumps the athletic program and increases the four year graduation rate from 13% to 25%, then he can skip many of the steps on the way up. The first president that leads his university into dropping sports and focusing more on academics will become a nationally recognized person and will be highly covered in the media. Someone will be ambitious enough to do it like say UAB, UNT, Troy, etc. It will be the fastest way to national recognition. All the president has to do is whether the ridicule and snark that will come from the sports media.

    However, I suspect that is universities start dropping their sports programs that organizations like ESPN will be quietly worried. If fewer students learn to be sports fans in college, there will be fewer of them in the future to pay for ESPN when the television providers finally unbundle their product.

    • Mr. Blue says:

      If NMSU were to cut their athletics programs, and then find a vault of diamonds hidden in their library, they’d have a lot more money to spend!

    • trumwill says:

      If they can increase four year graduation rates, then I agree. Not only wouldn’t I bet my career on it, I wouldn’t bet $5 on it. I’d bet against it.

      Increasing teaching expenditures by maybe 5%, which is a very optimistic assessment, I don’t think that’s the difference between a 13%-25% four year graduation rates. I think that has more to do with the students, and I don’t think it will get them a better class of student.

      Even if that were so, it would effectively turn North Texas into UT-Dallas (better academics, minimal sports). Do you think that’s what they want? Does UAB want to be UAH?

      • superdestroyer says:

        Both of the Alabama Schools have the same graduation rate and at least the UAH students were not shaken down for students fees to pay for a football team that plays in front of an empty stadium. UAB should be the first school to drop sports and try to find another way to make a name for itself rather than just be loser in a start with two footbal rabid schools.

        • trumwill says:

          The difference in tuition and fees costs is all of $100 a year. Meanwhile, people outside of Alabama have actually heard of UAB… less so for UAH, despite it being a marginally better school.

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