MTSU forced into quick C-USA announcement
Posted: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 7:00 pm
MURFREESBORO (AP) — Athletic director Chris Massaro says Middle Tennessee was forced to announce that the Blue Raiders were leaving the Sun Belt Conference sooner than the university wanted to make the news public because the league was considering increasing the exit fee to as much as $10 million.
The AD detailed the realignment move Monday in a letter posted on the school website.
Massaro said Middle Tennessee was approached by Conference USA on Nov. 25 about joining, and officials hoped to announce the move after playing at Arkansas State on Dec. 1. The Sun Belt planned a board meeting Nov. 28, prompting Middle Tennessee to tell league officials of their decision after Massaro said they were told by a “reliable source” of a proposal that would hike the exit fee from the $1 million approved in May.
“Upon notice of our withdrawal, the Sun Belt cancelled its meeting,” Massaro wrote. “But after this point, it became clear that the news of MTSU and FAU’s movements were not going to wait until after Saturday’s game. As such, both MTSU and FAU held press conferences on Nov. 29 to announce the two universities were going to join C-USA.”
Both Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic announced plans to move to Conference USA by July 2014. The Blue Raiders kept making their case for a bowl bid before losing the Sun Belt title to Arkansas State after a 45-0 loss. A conference call Sunday allowed both Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee to pitch for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl berth that went to Western Kentucky.
That left the Blue Raiders (8-4) one of only two teams with a winning record not playing in a bowl game along with Louisiana Tech (9-3). Middle Tennessee beat Western Kentucky on the road Nov. 1, went 6-2 in the Sun Belt and also beat Georgia Tech, which needed a waiver to play in a bowl, 49-28 on Sept. 29 in Atlanta.
“Personally, I am frustrated with decisions made in board rooms and not on the football field,” Massaro wrote. “Our team and fans deserve better. I think it is clear that the bowl system needs improvement and should be better than this. However, this incredibly frustrating turn of events will not define us or our season.”
Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson issued a statement Monday saying he knew there has been a lot of talk that Middle Tennessee was left out of a bowl game because the Blue Raiders announced they are leaving the league.
The commissioner defended himself and said he worked hard with member schools in landing bowl games.
“It truly was a nonfactor in how the selections were made,” Benson said of Middle Tennessee’s planned move to C-USA. “Again to reiterate, the bowl games selected the teams that they most wanted.”
Now Middle Tennessee officials have to decide how quickly to leave the Sun Belt Conference. If the Blue Raiders want to join C-USA by July 1, 2013, they have to move fast.
C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said last week his league would like to set 2013 football schedules by Feb. 1.
Middle Tennessee: www.goblueraiders.com
Published in The Messenger 12.5.12