After the decision came down that the Power 5 conferences would have autonomy on how they operate themselves, Mountain West and fans of Group of 5 conferences began to feel a little uncomfortable about the future outlook of their team. Then, talks began floating around of Power 5 teams playing Power 5 opponents only, leaving teams like Fresno State, Marshall, and Northern Illinois out in the cold for a big opponent.
Of course, it would seem like a bad omen when Hawaii AD Ben Jay said Monday that there was a "very real possibility"" that the football program would be shut down. He would later backtrack from these statements, but the fact that it is being considered leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Warriors fans for the future. Fans of other mid-major teams may look at this as a possible premonition to their futures, but Hawaii is a unique case, boasting a financial deficit in 11 of the past 13 years, and is expected to end this year in the red as well.
Some schools rely on football to prop up their athletic department's revenue through ticket sales and other miscellaneous means of income, but Hawaii hasn't been able to do that in recent years, with ticket sales declining to just 15,000-plus this year, the lowest number for the Warriors since the 1970's. What exactly are the costs that come with supporting UH's football program? What about other mid-majors? How will they survive? John Infante of The Sporting News lays it out:
Propping up football can get very expensive. FBS football has 85 scholarships, huge travel parties, expensive equipment, and high medical costs. In addition, having an FBS football team raises the minimum number of sports required by the NCAA from 14 to 16. Those 85 scholarships and 100-plus participants also must be balanced by women’s programs for Title IX proportionality.
In short, autonomy may put keeping up with the big boys far enough out of reach quick enough that the majority of mid-major FBS football programs stop trying. Instead they’ll survive how they always have, finding recruits that slipped through the cracks and hiring coaches on their way up. Only when the football team itself becomes a financial burden will it be on the chopping block.
So while it may seem like that Power 5 Autonomy could lead teams like Hawaii toward the end of their program, it all boils down to the financial status of their program. Does your team's athletic department have a slight money problem, but football is chipping away at that each and every year? You'll be fine. However, if you find yourself in a situation similar to what the Warriors are in right now, there may be some cause for concern in the future.