By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The University of Cincinnati's move to the Big East Conference raises some questions. Such as...
Why is this such a big deal?
UC long has been searching for a conference with a high national profile for football and basketball, and now the Bearcats have it. The new Big East basketball conference might be the strongest in the country. The football conference is a member of the Bowl Championship Series, which decides the national title and gets the lion's share of major bowl money.
Why is this happening?
When the Atlantic Coast Conference raided the Big East by taking Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami, the Big East needed replacements that could provide both high-profile basketball programs and competitive football programs. It turned to UC, Louisville and South Florida. The league also is adding DePaul and Marquette for basketball and other non-revenue sports to create a 16-team league.
When will UC begin Big East play?
The five new schools are set to begin competition in 2005-06, which would mean two more basketball seasons and a football season in Conference USA for UC. The Big East says it will not push to have the C-USA schools released early, but if those schools can work out an agreement with
C-USA it would consider letting them in next season.
Is there a downside for UC?
The UC basketball team will have a much tougher time in this conference than it did while dominating C-USA and the Great Midwest. The football team will have to raise its level of recruiting to compete successfully in the new league.
Who benefits most?
The UC football program. Finally it will be bringing nationally known programs such as West Virginia, Pitt and Syracuse to Nippert Stadium on a regular basis. If the Bearcats can compete with them, the association will lift the profile of UC football.
What is the financial impact for UC?
The Bearcats will leave behind 12 NCAA Tournament revenue units worth about $130,000 each. But UC will receive significantly more revenue from increased ticket sales and its share of BCS revenue. BCS conferences get roughly $17 million a year compared to $1 million for Conference USA.
UC also stands to make more money thanks to the Big East formula for sharing NCAA Tournament money, which rewards teams according to how far they advance rather than splitting the money evenly as C-USA does. It's difficult to estimate how much more UC will make, because some of the financial arrangements are being negotiated, but UC athletic director Bob Goin said the difference will be in the millions of dollars.
Will the Big East remain a BCS conference?
The current BCS contract extends through the 2005 season. What happens after that is anyone's guess. Already the non-BCS conferences have appealed to Congress to force a change in the current setup, which they say excludes them from national-championship consideration. But Big East officials are confident they will retain their BCS status.
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