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Big East takes in Temple

After years, Temple will rejoin the Big East  for all sports during a two-year span.
The Owls are back in the Big East Conference.
After the football team exited the Big East in 2004 after originally being voted out of the conference in 2001 due to a lack of competitiveness on the field and funding off the field, the team will return in 2012 while Temple’s 21 other sports will join it in 2013, Big East commissioner John Marinatto announced last Wednesday, March 7, at Madison Square Garden.…

After years, Temple will rejoin the Big East  for all sports during a two-year span.

The Owls are back in the Big East Conference.

After the football team exited the Big East in 2004 after originally being voted out of the conference in 2001 due to a lack of competitiveness on the field and funding off the field, the team will return in 2012 while Temple’s 21 other sports will join it in 2013, Big East commissioner John Marinatto announced last Wednesday, March 7, at Madison Square Garden. The move had been in the works for more than a year.

“[Athletic Director] Bill Bradshaw and I first met to explore possible Big East Conference membership well over a year ago, and our discussions intensified over the past several weeks,” Marinatto said. “I also had the pleasure of working with Board Chair [Patrick J.] O’Connor and General Counsel George Moore to bring a potential partnership together.”

One of the key points in that partnership was figuring out a way to exit the Mid-American Conference, where Temple football used to play and the Atlantic Ten Conference, where all of Temple’s other sports resided with the exception of gymnastics. Originally, leaving the MAC required a $2.5 million exit fee with two years’ notice and the A-10 required a year’s notice and $1 million. Temple will pay $6 million to the MAC and $1 million to the A-10.

Assistant Vice President of University Communications Ray Betzner told The Temple News last week that the Big East will be covering all of Temple’s exit fees.

“No college money will be  paying for this,” Betzner said.

Marinatto declined to specify how much and in what fashion the exit fees will be covered by the Big East.

“We think we’re going to give the Big East exactly what they deserve, and really they’ve given us financially the opportunity to run a stable program,” Lewis Katz, a trustee and chairman of the board’s athletics committee added. “I mean, without the specifics, [the Big East has] changed our athletic budget by 800 percent next year.”

Another key point was finding a way to appease Villanova, Temple’s new in-conference rival, which had previously tried to block Temple’s entry into the conference in November 2011,  according to numerous media reports. The motivation behind that was the theory that the addition of another Philadelphia school in the Big East would hurt Villanova on and off the field. To compromise, all of Temple’s sports besides football will join the conference in 2013 after exploring a way for Temple and Villanova to “coexist in the same marketplace,” Marinatto said.

For the football team, being a member of the Big East makes them members of a Bowl Championship Series conference, meaning if the Owls were to become Big East champions, it would earn a bid one of college football’s five BCS bowl games, the most coveted bowl games in college football.

The university also stands to benefit financially by taking a larger slice of college athletics’ overall revenues from three sources. The first is tied to college football’s Bowl Championship Series, which during the 2010-11 Fiscal Year, gave $22,515,095 of its $181,912,310 in total revenue to the Big East to divide among its member institutions, while the MAC received $2,633,683 according to the NCAA’s website.

The second source is tied to NCAA revenues from the men’s basketball tournament in March. During March Madness, a conference receives a “unit” for every game its member institutions plays in except the championship game. In the 2009-10 Fiscal Year, one unit was worth $222,206 adding up to a total of $167.1 million in revenue. The Big East received $23,109,436 in such revenue, while the A-10 received $6,443,977. The NCAA encourages conferences to share the money evenly, but the conferences are not obligated to do so.

The third is with the Big East’s television contract with ABC and ESPN, which is set to expire in 2013 and is currently being renegotiated. Under the current deal, universities who play both football and basketball in the Big East receive a little more than $3 million a year.

The move will also likely mark an increase in the university’s athletic budget. The average budget of schools that compete in the Big East in all sports is approximately $47.9 million and Temple’s athletic budget is approximately $29.7 million according to the United States Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics Data Analysis database.

Getting back into the Big East was poignant to Katz, who had seen the football team through its down years.

“It was dreadful several years ago… You know, we didn’t deserve, truthfully, to be in the football competition in those years, but it’s hard to get kicked out,” Katz said. “When we started to negotiate to come back in, I thought it was just a wonderful, wonderful way to remove a blemish on our football program.”

“We have a football program, we have a real football program,” Katz added.

Brian Dzenis can be reached at brian.dzenis@temple.edu.

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