Saying they weren’t necessarily worried about losing teams in the ongoing spate of Division I conference realignment, OVC leaders approved this week a “purposeful increase” in membership and exit fees to reflect an “appropriate value” to league membership.
“It was not a reflection (commissioner Beth DeBauche) is worried somebody was going to leave or we’re going to add a lot of people, it’s just more that nothing happened in a long time,” OVC spokesman Kyle Schwartz said.
The fees for leaving will run anywhere from $500,000 to $750,000 depending on the terms of the escape.
In the past, when a school left without providing a two-year transition — as Samford did in 2008 — it cost the school $200,000 plus the forfeiture of any year-end conference and basketball distribution revenue. Now, it will cost $750,000 plus the revenue forfeiture.
Even if a school does give the full two-year notice the price is $500,000 plus the revenue forfeiture it would be due during its lame-duck status. Previously, there was no lump sum exit fee.
It has long been speculated Jacksonville State would be interested in moving to the Sun Belt Conference if given the opportunity, but that seems to have lost momentum. The Sun Belt recently announced the additions of former FCS football powers Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, and JSU officials have said they’re committed to producing the best program they could be on the level they currently play.
The Southern Conference, meanwhile, filled its vacancies with East Tennessee, Mercer and VMI.
When it comes to adding teams to the OVC — as it did with JSU in 2003, SIU-Edwardsville in 2008 and Belmont in 2012 — there previously were only administrative fees attached to joining.
Now, while the associated fees still apply, it will cost $150,000 for a Division II institution to join and $100,000 for a Division I school.
The action came after OVC officials studied what like conferences were doing and determined their league was seriously undervalued.
“The action items at the OVC spring meetings were made with progress in mind,” DeBauche said in a statement. “From the changes to the membership entrance and exit fees (to the other items), decisions were made with the vision of our league moving forward and continuing to strengthen.”
The league put off a decision to expand the OVC baseball tournament to eight teams, choosing instead to form a presidential subcommittee to examine bracketing and seeding philosophy for baseball, soccer and tennis. Opponents of the baseball expansion have said it threatens the goal of sending the league’s best team to the NCAA regionals.
OVC leaders did approve the in-house management of their golf and tennis championships, enhancing an existing funding model for teams to host a Division I football playoff game to $60,000, and a contract extension for DeBauche through the 2016-17 academic year.
This coming academic year JSU officials will chair the league’s board of presidents and board of athletics directors. Those responsibilities rotate throughout the league and was due to fall to Eastern Kentucky, but the EKU president is about to retire, which moves the spots to JSU.
In a related item, the NCAA is expected to announce its public recognition awards for academic progress (APR) Wednesday. One JSU women’s team is expected to be among those cited. The complete APR report, complete with penalties, is expected out June 11. JSU officials, while not commenting specifically on their APR status, said they expect a positive report.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.