Bernadette McGlade has endured criticism for moving the A-10 office to Virginia.
But she won't get any here.
Because I understand.
"People ask: 'Was it only about cost?' And I say: 'No, it was not just about cost,'" said McGlade, now in her second year as the Atlantic 10's commissioner. "But it is an easier way of doing business when you compare it to [the cost of doing business in] a large metropolitan city."
|Many coaches, like Arizona's Sean Miller, have left smaller conferences for greener pastures. (US Presswire)|
But even McGlade acknowledges the decision to move the A-10 office from Philadelphia to Newport News, Va., was at least somewhat motivated by a less expensive way of doing things, and I'm not going to criticize that decision. Again, I understand. And, honestly, it makes me more sad than mad, because what it represents is another sign that the gap between the haves (the BCS) and have-nots (everybody else) is growing at an uncomfortable rate for those of us who enjoy a level playing field.
I mean, do you think the Big East worries about the cost of doing business?
What about the Big 12?
"One of our major concerns is the gap between increasing expenses and, in our case, reduced revenues," said Missouri Valley Conference commissioner Doug Elgin, a man who understands as well as anybody the challenges facing McGlade and other non-BCS commissioners trying to compete in Division I basketball. "When you look at us and then look at some of the out-of-this-world figures being generated [by the BCS-affiliated leagues], it really is almost two different worlds."
On the surface, these are great times for the Atlantic 10. Saint Louis has a new arena, Saint Joseph's just opened a new practice facility and George Washington is in the middle of upgrades that, when finished, McGlade said will represent "more than $140 million in renovations in basketball" for A-10 programs. Add that to the fact that the league placed three teams in last season's NCAA tournament (same as the all-mighty SEC), and that it has reached a deal with CBS to broadcast the conference title game, and it could be argued that the A-10 has never been in better shape.
And yet it's still positioned to fall behind.
Because it can't possibly catch or keep up.
Not with the SEC having sold its media rights to CBS and ESPN in deals that are expected to produce more than $200 million annually. Not when even the worst ACC teams are on national television more than almost every non-BCS team. Not when regardless of how much money the great non-BCS schools invest, they are still at risk of losing their coaches to one of the power conferences like Memphis (John Calipari to the SEC) and Xavier (Sean Miller to the Pac-10) did this past offseason.
The revenue gap is becoming wider.
Just like the exposure gap is becoming wider.
Which is why the recruiting gap is becoming wider.
And for proof you should consider that just two top 70 prospects from the Class of 2010 are currently committed to non-BCS schools. Memphis has one (Will Barton), Isiah Thomas has the other (Dominque Ferguson). But beyond that, the other 35 prospects ranked in Scout.com's top 70 who have already committed are committed to BCS-affiliated programs, and that's not a coincidence.
More than anything, prospects want the best.
The best facilities.
The best coaches.
And with the money getting so out of whack between the power leagues (SEC, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10, ACC, Big 12) and non-power leagues (A-10, MVC, Mountain West, C-USA, WAC, Colonial Athletic Association, etc.), it's reasonable to think it's going to become increasingly difficult for the non-power leagues to keep their coaches from jumping for greener grass (and a stack of greenbacks). Consider: Nevada has been as good in the WAC as Georgia has been bad in the SEC over the past few years, but Nevada could do nothing to keep Mark Fox from leaving Reno for Athens when Georgia made a move.
And you should see Fox's new practice facility!
None of this is new, mind you. The BCS-affiliated leagues have always produced more revenue than the non-BCS affiliated leagues, always been on TV more, always had nicer facilities, always recruited better and always been able to snatch a coach pretty much whenever they wanted. To tell you that is not the point of this column. The point is to make you aware that in the same year the SEC began a $2.2 billion contract with ESPN, the A-10 took advantage of a cost-saving opportunity and announced Newport News as its new home in a move that highlighted the widening gap between those inside the ropes and those stuck on the outside.
In other words, competitive balance is not getting better.
It's getting worse.
There's a reason why five non-BCS coaches jumped to BCS leagues after last season (Calipari, Miller, Fox, Anthony Grant and Ken Bone), but no head coaches went from a BCS school to a non-BCS school. And there's a reason why despite all the success Memphis, Xavier, Nevada, VCU and Portland State have enjoyed in recent years, each of the five schools had to hire assistants to take control of their programs.
What's the reason?
It's the same reason that helped convince McGlade to move the A-10 office from Philadelphia to Newport News.
It starts with an M, ends with a Y and rhymes with honey.
"I'm not going to speak down to our level of schools, but there's no comparison between the kind of deals that some of the major institutions are able to corral for their rights and what we are able to get," Elgin said. "You can't compare."
No, you cannot.
And, I'm afraid, it's what's going to make it even more difficult to compete.