ECU Chancellor Ballard talks about the Alliance

Since the announcement of the alliance between the MW and C-USA, the discussion has been about an 18 - 24 team league. According to ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard, this is only the first step. He claims in an interview on Pirate Radio, that the alliance is actually looking at 24 - 30 teams (24 - 28 more realistic, unless there are some non football schools?). Ballard goes on to say that in three years there would be four divisions: Eastern, Central, South Western and Western. His focus seems to be be keeping regional rivalries. In fact he says that the presidents want to "add to those" rivalries, which can only mean expansion, in which he places 6 or 8 team regional divisions. As Ballard says 8 teams, by my math, that makes 32 teams over 4 divisions... it keeps on getting bigger and bigger. Preference will be given to "all sports" members, but the conference will be open to other options, as they pertain to value for the conference. There is also university control over playing weekday games, which is no doubt a big reason for more teams, because no one wants to play all weekend games, but the networks are demanding them.

According to the interview, there is a membership committee already in place that is looking at potential members. The plan is apparently to add 2 - 4 teams by this summer and then look at adding more as value and opportunity present themselves. There will be a 90 - 120 day period in which this is to take place, because the invites must be accepted by the end of the fiscal year. These teams have already been on conference expansion lists from the time before the alliance was announced, meaning everyone already knows who they are.

The alliance is working with "at least three" different television networks (see my response about this: Fox vs ESPN) and Ballard says that "net distributions to the universities will go up". In keeping with the regional scope of the alliance, an increase in funding with the same or even less travel, with added regional teams, would add up to savings plus revenue increases and be a windfall for members. Ballard says, however, that this will not happen until May or June, so don't hold your breath. Reading between the lines here, Ballard alludes to the networks wanting some assurances that the teams contracted will be in the conference for the duration of the contract. This will affect the exit fees still owed by the departing teams and the buy-ins from new members. The Semifinal idea has also attracted some positive attention by the networks.

The goal is to have the conference named and networked is May 1st, but this is a non-binding deadline. There are 16 universities participating, as Ballard states on several occasions. That means the departing teams have no say in any of this whatsoever, but Hawaii is participating fully. Any time 16 people, let alone 16 universities, have to agree to something this big, there will inevitably be difficulties. If the alliance is really looking at two to four teams by summer and then going as big as 32 teams, that means the WAC is gone (along with Benson - did he see the writing on the wall?) and the MAC and Sun Belt raided as well. There is a two to 16 team differential in what Ballard says, or alludes to.

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