Last Modified: Tuesday, September 04, 2012 7:04 PM
McNeese State, the football team, can compete in the Sun Belt Conference.
That’s been made readily apparent in the last decade, which has seen the Cowboys go undefeated against Sun Belt opponents in three tries. Alas, that stat explains why it might take another decade to get three more cracks at Sun Belt teams. They cannot be wildly enthusiastic about the prospect of scheduling McNeese.
It doesn’t take a head-in-the-clouds optimist to think the Cowboys could make an impact in college football’s highest level. One of Middle Tennessee State’s beat writers remarked that McNeese has enough talent to finish third in the Sun Belt this season. Thursday’s win — one of four by FCS teams over FBS teams on opening weekend — makes such talk sound even more reasonable when combined with Texas-San Antonio and Texas State both winning their FBS debuts after competing on the same level as McNeese last season.
However, there is more to college football than what happens between the lines. And when viewed through that lens it is hard to see how McNeese State, the institution, would have a realistic chance of making a move up in the present economic environment. In fact, such a move would be downright irresponsible.
Daniel Fulks, a professor at Transylvania University — that’s in Kentucky, not Eastern Europe — has annually prepared a financial report for all NCAA athletic programs since 1994. And he was recently quoted in an Associated Press story saying that moving up to the FBS usually hurts the bottom line for a school.
“The majority of (transitioning) schools are going to lose more money,” Fulks said. “They’ll have fewer home games, they’ll have to travel more. If they’ve been winning in FCS, they’ll probably be losing at FBS at least for a while. At most institutions, it’s going to cost them, and it’s going to cost them on a long-term basis.”
The revenues are higher at the FBS level, but so too are the expenses. There are 22 more scholarships to pay for in football alone. FBS schools are also required to field 16 varsity sports programs. McNeese currently has 14.
Oh, there’s also a stadium expansion that would have to be paid for by somebody.
Looking at the Sun Belt’s membership, McNeese’s other great disadvantage comes in enrollment, which in turn provides a much smaller pool of well-to-do alumni. The only school of comparable size in the entire league is Louisiana-Monroe. Everyone else has at least 6,000 more students.
Sure, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to beat Alabama is pretty cool. But other than that, is being the next ULM really what you want to hang your hat on? The Warhawks haven’t made the postseason since the 1993 Division I-AA playoffs. The other sports aren’t so hot, either. Men’s basketball was 5-26 last year and women’s basketball went 9-21.
Competing at a higher level only makes sense if you have the ability to consistently compete.
Some might see the current collegiate athletics environment something like the Great Oklahoma Land Rush. In the case of UTSA, one day you’re sitting in the Southland and the next you find yourself moving to Conference USA after your pit stop in the WAC.
Everyone sees opportunity, and they’re scrambling to grab it.
However, I compare the current landscape in college athletics to a more contemporary case of property grabbing — the subprime mortgage crisis. With some conferences fighting to stay relevant — a battle the WAC lost — some schools are being sold something they probably can’t afford to buy.
As things stand, McNeese is better off as a tenant in a place it can afford to live.
Alex Hickey covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at email@example.com
Posted By: P.Q. On: 9/6/2012
That is what schools like McNeese are after they move up.Why move up to LSU's and Alabama's level knowing you will never be able to consistantly compete with them? I don't think it is safe to say you stop competing when you understand reality.ULL has been FBS for how long now? They can not even make a touchdown in Tiger Stadium.Have never been to a bowel game that means anything and look at the hundreds of millions they have flushed down the drain.
Posted By: Darrell On: 9/4/2012
Title: No it doesn't make sense
When you accept where you are without striving for improvement yo accept being this is the best and you might as well stop competing
Posted By: Daryl On: 9/4/2012
Dr Doland fought this thinking when he tried to keep McNeese at 1a back in the 80's and we have never had any vision since !