Unfortunately, there should be a NE 1A conference to take teams from 1AA that want to move up. Currently, there are conferences that have taken recently upgraded 1AA teams in the midwest (MAC), south (Sun Belt), and West (WAC). IF there was one in the NE, I think more schools would move up - especially teams from the CAA.
Here is the link to the thread started by FriarFan:
By Bob Hohler, Globe Staff | December 8, 2006
AMHERST -- Two victories shy of a national championship, the University of Massachusetts football team enters its biggest game in years tonight having already cinched a singular distinction. No public college or university in the country has reported losing more money on a Division 1-AA football program in recent years than UMass, according to financial records the school files with the US Department of Education.
Breaking News Alerts UMass officials said the annual shortfall of at least $2.6 million has been budgeted as the price of sustaining a competitive football program that promotes the school's image, provides a unifying, entertaining resource for students and alumni, and extends opportunities to student-athletes, among other perceived benefits. The UMass operating budget is covered by state funds and student fees.
But some members of the university's newly realigned board of trustees think there may be a better way to run a football program. In an initiative certain to stoke debate over the school's priorities from the Amherst campus to Beacon Hill, the board members want UMass to move up to Division 1-A and challenge Boston College and the University of Connecticut in New England's intercollegiate football market, a move that could ease the financial burden.
Boston College reported turning more than a $1.4 million profit last year on its football program, while UConn reported earning $2.2 million.
"Nobody is saying we could pay for other programs with the profits we make from Division 1-A football," said Matthew Carlin, chairman of the board's committee on athletics. "But we're determined to enhance the UMass brand and we think football and excellence in athletics can continue to do that."
The bottom line UMass athletic programs
Carlin said the board could vote as early as its next meeting in March on authorizing a feasibility study on UMass adopting Division 1-A football.
"There is definitely interest in trying to take the next step," said Dr. Ken MacAfee, an oral surgeon and former National Football League player who is one of six new members Governor Mitt Romney appointed in September to the 19-member board of voting trustees. "It would be nice to see another Division 1-A team in the area besides Boston College."
Nationally, there are 116 Division 1-AA programs, 70 of which are at public schools. There are 119 Division 1-A teams. Moving up to Division 1-A would require UMass to build at least a 30,000-seat stadium, upgrade other facilities and services to appeal to the nation's top recruits, and increase the number of scholarship players to 85 from 63. The school also would need to secure a potentially lucrative invitation to join a Division 1-A conference, such as the Big East.
By competing in the higher conference, the football program could boost its bottom line by sharing in television revenues and bowl money, while also increasing its marketing opportunities.
MacAfee said board members who share his view consider the prospect more than a pipe dream, though he acknowledged "many roadblocks" -- none greater than the exorbitant start-up costs. He said the transition to Division 1-A "may be years or decades away, but hopefully we could get the ball rolling in the near future."
Many students and alumni would welcome the jump to Division 1-A. But a key member of the faculty senate, biology professor Brian O'Connor, said the plan would trigger an "outcry" on campus, and UMass athletic director John McCutcheon said the shift would require the governor and Legislature to unleash a massive investment of state funds, a dubious prospect considering the commonwealth's needs.
"I'm OK with where we are, but I'm not OK if they want to move up," said O'Connor, the faculty's delegate to the board of trustees. "It would be absolutely foolish to think the university could move up to Division 1-A in football. The money is just not there and, if the money appeared, I would argue that we should use it to grow the faculty and reduce class size."
McCutcheon estimated it would cost $250 million to build a new stadium and other football-related facilities that would allow UMass to compete at the highest collegiate level
(UConn has undergone nearly $150 million in football-related capital improvements, including a state-financed $90 million stadium, since it began the transition in 1999 from Division 1-AA to Division 1-A).
In addition, McCutcheon said, annual football expenses at UMass likely would more than double from about $2.9 million and the overall athletic budget of nearly $19 million would increase sharply to cover a commensurate investment in women's sports to meet Title IX requirements.
"There is a group of our fans that would love to see it happen," McCutcheon said. "They're passionate folks, competitive folks. But we have to think not with that passion but with reality, practicality, and feasibility."
The university's most recent feasibility study, conducted in 2003, recommended the school revisit the issue of moving to Division 1-A in three to five years. It cited concerns about the economy and questions about which Division 1-A conference UMass could join.
"UMass was in a different place at that time," Carlin said. "Now there is some interest among the president's office and the board to take another close look at it. We have decided it makes sense to at least update the data that was collected."
No playoff windfall
The renewed interest comes amid the football team's best season since the Minutemen won the Division 1-AA national title in 1998. At 12-1, with its only loss coming by 1 point to Division 1-A Navy, UMass faces the University of Montana tonight in a national semifinal in Missoula, Mont. The winner will play for the national title Dec. 15 in Chattanooga, Tenn.
The financial payoff of the Minutemen's current success, however, may be minimal. Unlike Division 1-A schools, which stand to reap large sums by qualifying for postseason bowl games or sharing in bowl revenues as conference members, Division 1-AA teams participating in playoffs receive little more than reimbursement for their travel costs, revenues from games they host, and potential marketing opportunities.
Indeed, two Division 1-AA schools -- Southern and Grambling State -- shun the playoffs for a bigger payday. They choose to face each other in the annual Bayou Classic, which has paid each school $1 million to appear.
Thanks to UMass's playoff run, the school could exceed its football revenue projections of $345,000 for the 2006-07 academic year by about $20,000, McCutcheon estimated. So, with a total expense budget of $2,962,749 and revenues of $365,000, UMass football this year would cost nearly $2.6 million.
That would beat last year, when UMass spent $3,318,205 on football and generated $388,812 in revenues for a cost of more than $2.9 million. The final cost in 2004-05 exceeded $2.8 million, and the figure topped $3 million in 2003-04, according to the school's annual reports to the US Department of Education. Expenses include the maximum 63 scholarships allowed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, salaries and benefits for 10 coaches and additional staff, equipment for 95 players, travel, game-day operations, and recruiting costs, among other items.
"We've made a conscious decision to play at a competitive level," McCutcheon said. "We can afford to do it this way and we can be successful [at the Division 1-AA level]."
The UMass football program's distinction of losing more than any of the other 69 1-AA teams at public schools stems in part from different accounting practices at different schools. The greatest difference is that some schools, such as the flagship universities in Maine and Rhode Island that compete with UMass in the Atlantic-10 Conference, count state funds they allocate for football as revenues, which UMass does not.
The practice, while acceptable by federal guidelines, effectively means a small number of schools may not have disclosed football losses greater than UMass's.
In any case, only one of the nation's Division 1-AA programs reported losing more money on football last year than UMass. That was Villanova, a private Catholic institution, which reported a $3.1 million deficit.
Breaking down figures
McCutcheon said it would be wrong, however, to describe the difference between UMass football's expenses and revenues as a deficit. He said the team meets its budget projections each year in both categories, as do the school's 22 other intercollegiate sports programs, none of which makes money.
In fact, UMass expects to spend $27,555 per participant this year on the 95-member football team, less than the rates per person in five other sports: women's basketball ($80,605), men's basketball ($73,077), men's ice hockey ($36,550), softball ($30,329), and women's tennis ($28,072).
"Football becomes an easy target," McCutcheon said, "but just because it has the biggest bottom line doesn't mean it's a problem."
Not everyone on campus is tickled about it, however. Some believe there is a better to spend the athletic department funds.
"My opinion is that we ought to go big on basketball and not worry about football," said Richard Bogartz, a psychology professor who serves on the faculty senate's rules committee. "I'd rather we were like Kentucky or UConn. No one has heard of their football teams, but everyone knows about their basketball teams."
Bogartz appears outnumbered, though, by football fans eager for UMass to reach Division 1-A. Bob DeFlavio, president of the Friends of UMass Football, said the move could reverse the team's financial fortunes and benefit the entire institution.
"You need to look at the big picture of how it could help the whole university," said DeFlavio, a former All-America defensive tackle at UMass.
He said the football team would fit perfectly in the Division 1-A Big East, playing the likes of Syracuse, Rutgers, and West Virginia. But McCutcheon questioned whether the Big East would admit the Minutemen because the conference appears content with eight current members, including UConn, which might not appreciate UMass competing in its backyard.
"I would never say never about anything in this business," McCutcheon said, "but we would face some daunting challenges."
Still, the status quo worries DeFlavio.
"What scares me the most is, how many 1-AA teams are going to be around in 10 years?" he said. "How many can afford to keep playing when they cost so much and don't bring in revenue? UMass has had football for more than 100 years. It would be a shame if we lost it."
Bob Hohler can be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.