How will the ripple effect of conference expansion find its way to Georgia State?
As you know, the splash that was made during last year’s comings and goings resulted in Georgia State moving from the Colonial Athletic Association to the Sun Belt. The move made geographical, financial and common sense.
In addition to playing football on the FBS level, the Sun Belt featured more geographic rivals than the Panthers had in the CAA, whose closest team was seven hours away in Wilmington, N.C.
Well, it appears that one of those rivals, Middle Tennessee State, is following Georgia State’s script and is moving up to Conference USA, considered a tier above the Sun Belt in conference reputation.
That move occurred because the Big East raided Conference USA on Tuesday, taking two teams. That move by the Big East occurred because the ACC was expected to take Louisville (which it has done), which occurred because the Big 10 took Maryland.
So what does this mean for Georgia State?
Potentially nothing in terms of where the Panthers might make their next lair.
I was told last night by someone familiar with Conference USA’s plans that Georgia State was not on their radar. They didn’t say why. Presumably, Western Kentucky, another Sun Belt team with stronger history than Georgia State’s, or New Mexico might be next should Conference USA add another university.
Even if the Conference USA was interested, Georgia State may not have the finances to support such a move. In the pro-forma summary included in the FBS feasibility study commissioned by Georgia State last year, its sources of revenue are 23-percent less than the average Conference USA school. Some of that would be made up by more conference revenues.
However, Georgia State’s budget would need to increase by an estimated $6.3 million. To compare, the move to the Sun Belt would result in a budget increase of $3 million, according to the study. That also doesn’t take into account any initiation fee, which were $2 million last year.
Of course, many of you have surmised that expenses may decrease because Conference USA in 2014, with a few start-up programs and teams that formerly played in smaller conferences, will be different than Conference USA in 2011. That doesn’t solve the invitation issue, though.
Like the Sun Belt, a move to Conference USA would produce some potentially strong regional rivalries with Charlotte, UAB, and potentially Middle Tennessee State.
Now, the Sun Belt may be without Middle Tennessee State, one of the schools closest to Georgia State geographically. If the Sun Belt moves to add a school like Sam Houston State (just throwing that out there), that’s one less geographic rival for the Panthers.
– Doug Roberson, AJC.