Friday, July 24, 2009

D1 Movements -- Anomaly or Trend?

The Passing of the Gents
With a modest, 65 word announcement, Centenary College's Board of Trustees voted to reclassify the Shreveport, LA school from D1 to D3 in basketball. Budget problems (a 1.5 million dollar shortfall and shrinking endowment) were cited as reasons for the move. The Gents will play 2 additional seasons in D1 as they work to develop D3 conference affiliation.

While the economic downturn was identified as an accelerant, but not the proximate cause, for the reclassification, I wonder whether the economy will motivate other schools to cut costs by reclassifying. Since 2004 18 schools have reclassified to DI status (at the conclusion of a "probationary" period -- it is easier to get out of DI than it is to get in...). The schools, their conference affiliation and 2008 basketball budgets...

SchoolInto DIOut of DIConf.2008 Bgt
Cal-Davis2005Big West$828,713
North Colorado2005Big Sky$770,607
Utah Valley St2005Ind$679,511
Kennesaw St.2006A-Sun$916,266
North Dakota St.2006Summit$852,658
North Florida2006A-Sun$631,627
South Dakota St.2006Summit$681,782
Birmingham Southern2007NANA
Central Arkansas2007Southlnd$604,928
NJ Inst of Technology2007Ind$962,162
Winston Salem St.2007MEAC$596,396
Cal St. Bakersfield2008Ind$815,741
Florida Gulf Coast2008A-Sun$568,955
North Carolina Central2008Ind$491,768
Presbyterian2008Big South$947,794
South Carolina-Upstate2008A-Sun$703,691
Houston Baptist2009Ind$764,773

[Budget numbers from Kyle Whelliston's Basketball State website -- thanks] With nearly 298.7 million dollars distributed to 31 conferences and independents in 2008, DI is the place to be. And clearly long term success comes through conference affiliation, where an NCAA Tournament "unit" will be worth $163,981 for the 2009 tournament. Even low-major conferences split just under a million dollars this past season. Couple tournament money (if the school is affiliated), with appearance monies (invitational tournaments) and revenue generated from television, the home gate (if the arena is big enough and the fanbase devoted) and guarantee games (mostly a revenue source for mid/low majors), and a program with a modest budget can break even, or make a little money. Why leave? Centenary's story seems straightforward -- shrinking funding sources and lack success at the DI level may account for the fall of the Gents. Birmingham Southern's story may be a bit more complicated. The Panther's Head Coach Duane Reboul (17 seasons, 402-124), appears to have led the school into DI and land an affiliation with the Big South Conference sometime in the early 2000s (2001 appears to be the 1st season where they played a full DI slate, going 13-14). The Panthers went 19-9 in 2006, their last season in DI. Reboul resigned after the Board of Trustees voted to reclassify DIII in May of 2006. The question, especially for the 18 newest members of DI, is whether the school will stay, or like Birmingham Southern, stay a few seasons, look around, and then reclassify to a level where expenses (mostly scholarships, travel and coach's salaries) are greatly reduced.

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