May 10, 2010
We continue to monitor reports on future conference expansions, as well as how and when they might take place. The national sports media are devoting coverage to this, and there is much speculation as to what newly expanded conferences will look like. Many wonder what impact all this will have on college athletics, and our fans are understandably anxious to know how Southern Miss will be affected. Unfortunately, nearly everything at present is guesswork, and no one really knows what the future will hold.
In my discussions with other athletic directors and administrators around the country, many seem to think the Big Ten will be the first to expand. Whichever league acts first, it could trigger a series of events that could change most, if not all, NCAA Division 1 conferences. The scenarios of what may happen after the dominoes start falling are almost endless, but much will depend on whether conferences remain settled on the 12-school model, or if a new trend emerges toward the 14- or 16-school "super conference."
Regardless, our fans should know that we are continuing our work to make sure Southern Miss - as a university and athletic program - will always strive to compete at the highest level. President Martha Saunders and I are both committed to positioning the university to be among the best in the country for students and student-athletes alike. Since 2000, our athletic program implemented more than $67 million in athletic upgrades and improvements to facilities. Our institution boasts an 80% graduation rate among our football scholar-athletes, and our history of competitiveness speaks for itself.
As a charter member of Conference USA, which has been very positive for us, we continue to work with league members in the interest of all institutions. We understand the speculation is that C-USA may factor somehow into conference expansion, but I would caution against looking only at one league or scenario to guess what might happen.
For example, some scenarios have some BCS leagues dissolving (at least for football) if they lose enough institutions to other BCS leagues. If that were to happen, the remaining football schools in those conferences may be looking for a new home. It's also possible that one or more conferences that do not currently have BCS status may restructure with new members and thus emerge strong enough to become an automatic qualifier. We could see new faces and new leagues across the entire college athletics landscape, particularly in football. On the flip side, the anticipated changes may not be as far-reaching as some expect and at the end of the day, there is very minimal change nationally or in C-USA.
We are happy to see our fans engage in these discussions nationally, and it's an opportunity for us all to tell others about the great things happening at Southern Miss.