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Every penny matters for MU

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the recesses of my mind, it was my thought some Conference USA school defections to the Big East might not be bad for Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick and his department.

Let's face it, Hamrick has quite a charge. It's tough enough to raise money and interest situated in the southwest corner of West Virginia. It borders Kentucky and that state's UK and Louisville fans. Above the school you find Ohio State fans, and MU is surrounded by West Virginia University fans.

Also, the Mountain State isn't exactly flush with recruits. That's why it made sense to hire Florida recruiter extraordinaire Doc Holliday to coach the football team.

Of late, though, MU's football program hasn't exactly lit up the night. So, I thought, playing a lesser league schedule and winning more games might not be bad for the department. It might put spark back in the eyes of Herd fans, fannies in seats and money in the athletic department's bank account.

You might have read elsewhere in the Gazette where MU will host East Carolina, Southern Miss, UAB and Texas-San Antonio in football next season and visit Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee and Tulsa. Holliday's troops should have much success with that.

But a couple of big-picture concerns have popped up.

The first is easy to guess. There are more whispers Tulsa might jump to the Mountain West.

The second concern pertains to the Tulsa rumors or, more specifically, the further weakening of C-USA.

See, there are now reports centering on future college football playoff revenue. As you might expect, the five "power conferences" - the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC - will receive the lion's share of the expected $500 million annual windfall.

The next "gang of five" conferences - Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt - will split approximately $86 million.

The proposed distribution system is where Hamrick should have concerns.

According to reports, more than half the "gang" pot would be distributed evenly.

The rest - proposed in tiers - is expected to be based on performance. The second tier (have you noticed "tier" is the new athletic buzzword?) will pay out based on a conference's body of work. The third tier will pay a bonus to the league with the highest-ranked team, which is also guaranteed a slot in an "access" bowl. (If ranked in the top four, it can also qualify for the playoffs.)

That could create even more separation between Marshall and schools in the power conferences. It will make it even more difficult for Hamrick to keep up with the Joneses.

Sure, C-USA could jump up from year to year, but it will almost certainly consistently finish behind the Big East and Mountain West. If that's not the case, why would C-USA schools keep jumping to those two leagues?

So, more times than not, C-USA will have to settle for third-place money and stave off the MAC for fourth.

Will there be a huge gap between the playoff money paid to the upper "gang" schools and those within C-USA? Maybe. Maybe not.

But if you're Hamrick, it's tough enough to keep up with the Joneses. Every penny matters.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.


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