Move to Big East appears a likelihood for TU athletics
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Sunday, January 20, 2013
1/20/13 at 7:14 AM
Related story: John Klein: Another move would be leap of faith for TU.
View a a map of how the Big East and Mountain West will look as of July 1, 2015.
During the last 20 days - after returning from Memphis, Tenn., where they watched the Golden Hurricane football team defeat Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl - University of Tulsa officials resumed their survey of the Conference USA condition, their dialogue with representatives of other schools and leagues, and their conversations with significant donors who occupy positions within TU's inner circle.
As of today, this is TU's status:
The university's switch from Conference USA membership to Big East Conference membership seems to have graduated from a possibility to a likelihood.
Furthermore, the Mountain West Conference scenario still has a pulse. If that league decides to expand beyond 12 schools, Tulsa is believed to believe on the Mountain West radar.
However, by the time Mountain West officials make that determination, TU might already have committed to a Big East switch.
And if there is a place for Tulsa in the Big East, it is because of what occurred last week. San Diego State, which had accepted a Big East membership invitation, is staying in the Mountain West. Six current Conference USA schools - SMU, Houston, Tulane, Memphis, East Carolina and Central Florida - are moving to the Big East.
Sources told the Tulsa World that TU could get an invitation by the end of the month, and that membership likely would take effect with the start of the 2014 football season.
Tulsa officials are flirting with the Big East for two reasons:
The Big East may not retain its automatic BCS status beyond the 2013 season. Even with that, a switch to the Big East would keep Tulsa aligned with schools - like SMU, Houston, Memphis and Tulane - with which it has a competitive history, and would be more lucrative.
- A concern that Conference USA is becoming a clone of the Sun Belt Conference. Four of C-USA's replacement schools - North Texas, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee - currently compete in the Sun Belt. Without taking a direct shot at any specific school, TU President Steadman Upham said this on Dec. 29: "I also want to be in a conference that we can be proud of academically. Losing two of the private schools (SMU and Tulane) in Conference USA is damaging to me, in the way I think about the conference."
- Money. At the end of the 2012-13 sports calendar, it is believed that TU will collect a media-rights payment of about $1.5 million from Conference USA. Big East officials currently are negotiating a new all-sports deal with various television networks. A source shared this "educated guess" with the World - that the new Big East deal will result in members receiving between $3.5 million and $4.5 million a year.
If an invitation is extended, expect TU to accept immediately.
The last year has been remarkably eventful for the University of Tulsa. In some cases, unfortunately eventful.
Ross Parmley was promoted to the full-time athletic director's position.
Basketball coach Doug Wojcik was fired.
Basketball coach Danny Manning was hired.
President Steadman Upham retired.
Geoffrey Orsak was hired as the new president.
Less than three months later, Orsak was fired.
Upham returned to the presidency.
Three days after the TU football team defeated Central Florida for the Conference USA title, Parmley was fired.
TU acknowledged that the NCAA launched an investigation into Parmley's alleged gambling on college football and NFL games.
With the Liberty Bowl victory, the Golden Hurricane completed only the second 11-win season in program history.
And now there is this - the conference situation.
After the dust settles, TU's next move should be to invest in sweeping changes in the way it markets football and basketball. By the end of the 2012 football season, TU ranked 10th in Conference USA home attendance. The average of 20,020 was Tulsa's lowest since 2004.
At the 8,355-seat Reynolds Center, the current basketball attendance average is 4,440 - an increase of only 17 per game over the 2011-12 average. In part, Wojcik was dismissed because of the sustained attendance slump. For a conference game against UTEP last week, the announced attendance was 4,333.
As it pertains to marketing, the status quo isn't working. For a football program of this caliber, the university should aggressively work toward a goal of at least 24,000 in 2013 average attendance.
If TU is destined for a transfer to the Big East, a football-attendance average of 20,020 wouldn't make a favorable first impression.
Big East: Football
Present: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, USF, Syracuse, Temple
Joining July 1, 2013: Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State, SMU
Leaving June 30, 2013: Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Joining July 1, 2014: Tulane, East Carolina
Joining July 1, 2015: United States Naval Academy
Football Conference as of July 1, 2015: Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Navy, San Diego State, USF, SMU, Temple, Tulane
Big East: All sports
Present: Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. John's, Syracuse, USF, Villanova
Joining July 1, 2013: Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Temple
Leaving June 30, 2013: Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Joining July 1, 2014: Tulane
As of July 1, 2015: Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Memphis, USF, SMU, Temple, Tulane
- Central Florida
- East Carolina
- Southern Miss
- Fla. International
- Louisiana Tech
- North Texas
- Old Dominion
- Central Florida
- Florida Atlantic
- Middle Tennessee
Notes: Old Dominion becomes a football member in 2014; Charlotte in 2015.
Original Print Headline: Destination unknown
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397
With Conference USA crumbling, TU president Steadman Upham faces a big decision as to the Golden Hurricane's next conference. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World