If you were a skilled worker living in the Netherlands around 1637, You would find that it could cost up to 10 times your annual income to purchase a single Tulip Bulb. Via a fluke of genetics and disease the Dutch stumbled on one of the worlds very first well documented speculative bubbles.
By the height of the tulip boom you had people dropping a lifetimes worth of savings on plants that had not yet sprouted. The collapse, much like the housing collapse of our time, left the people who pent the most holding the bag for all those who over invested before them.
If you are a successful Mid Major Conference looking to play football only in the Big East you might be asked to spend at least a full years football revenue to get out of your conference and into the Big East. This is what the Big East will ask several schools to do this weekend! Go out and spend a ton of money and invest in something that others have priced past its actual value!
Warde Manuel, several months ago, talked about the hurdles in funding, the need to be immediately competitive, and stability as reasons he might not be so quick to jump conferences if the chance arose.
As Usual Manuel looked like he saw the future. This was all said before Syracuse and Pitt announced they were leaving the Big East, before Texas Christian reneged on their commitment, and before three days of conference calls confirmed that the conference has not, in any way, addressed the functional weakness of the Hybrid conference model.
Up Front Cost:
When teams like Pitt and Syracuse, who have been AQ members for more than a decade, wanted to jump conference they had a ready made pile of cash ready to pay off their exit dues. They might suffer two years in a sinking conference but they can afford to buy some seats on on a lifeboat. Most non AQ schools, however, do not have seven million in liquid assets to throw at a conference move.
So when UCF, ECU, Houston, or Memphis are asked to pony up seven million dollars to get out of Conference USA they will either have to squeeze a wealthy donor or finance the move with borrowed money.
This is to say nothing of any entrance fee that will be asked of these schools. Unless the Big East plans on letting them for free they will have to pony up some money to get 'in' to the conference.
Finally, for the proposed football only members, there is the issue of their other sports. You can not park your division IA (FBS) football in one conference while your other sports are in another conference that Supports IA football.
Temple and UMass can be in the MAC because the A10, their full conference, does not support football. Notre Dame gets to be an independent and park in the Big East for other sports.
While substantially less than buying into the Big East for football there will be a cost, and a commitment, so some other division one conferences needed by the Football Only members. UB, for example, would have to look at the MAAC, or perhaps the A10. I am sure UCF and others might look at the Big South.
In order to run in the Big East you have to be spending more than forty million dollars a year. For most of the candidates being proposed the rise in conference payouts, plus their current spending, would not get them over that bar.
Of course the answer you often get is that the TV money will get them close but what kind of money will Big East football draw when you replace Pitt and Syracuse with UCF and SMU?
Contrary to the simplicity that so many people like to sell the size of the market is only part of any good valuation. The other part is the penetration in that market. ESPN will site down with the big east and try to get a TV deal as cheaply as they can, and the price for Big East football is falling rapidly.
Are you buying a bulb or a tulip?
It's been reported that the Big East's AQ spot is secure through 2015, after that the BCS might be gone, or might move on without the Big East. Yes the Big East might get to stay in but what happens if Louisville and WVU are poached? What happens if the ACC goes to 16?
Well for those new members they will be in a conference almost certain to lose the AQ status.
Even if those members stay, and make no mistake a ten million dollar buyout is not going to keep Louisville or West Virgina in the conference, unless the all sports members reach numbers that match the basketball ball numbers the Big East of tomorrow will be no more viable than it is today.
What's a smart buyer to do?
The leadership at Temple have reportedly put their foot down. They will go in for all sports but not accept a football only invite. Due to the insane politics of the Big East that move may keep the Owls completely out. Temple, being primarily a basketball school, knows that the real value of the Big East is the basketball side.
The Bar Temple needs to clear for football only is far lower than some of the other candidates. Their exit fee from the MAC is 2.5 million dollars and all of their other sports are already parked somewhere else. If I were one of the other potential football only members (aside from Navy who has an even lower bar than Temple) I would seriously Question why Temple, who sits dead center in the Big East is not willing to drop 2.5 Million for a chance to play football in an AQ conference.
After all its not just the Football side that took a hit. Syracuse and Pitt were among the Big East's best teams. Louisville seems desperate to move, UConn would go the the ACC faster than you can say 'Damn You Boston College'. If the super conference scenario ever materializes big East Basketball might not be any better of a brand than the A10, perhaps ever lower than that.
As for Buffalo? Well none of this matters. SUNY makes the establishment of a big time athletics program very difficult and its been nothing short of a Small miracle that the Bulls manged to get back to Division one. The program at UB can not ramp up their facilities like UCF did over the past decade and unlike ECU they compete with local professional teams.
What Warde Manuel knew, months ago, is that success in college athletics comes from building internally, not from jumping on someone elses ship, especially when the people most able to move are jumping off faster than the rats.