POSTED: 1:26 a.m. HST, Nov 8, 2011
Does membership in the Mountain West Conference come with a money-back guarantee?
If you are the University of Hawaii, that is not only the $650,000 question but should be reason to begin consulting with counsel.
By this time next month, as many as a third of the nine members that voted UH into the MWC could be headed out the door, potentially leaving the lineup that the Warriors signed an agreement with eight months ago looking very different from the one they will kick off with for the 2012 football season.
Boise State has one foot out on the way to the Big East and is trying to drag MWC member Air Force Academy or ex-member Brigham Young along with it. Meanwhile, UH’s closest upcoming MWC foe, San Diego State, is on bent knee beseeching the Big East to, pretty please, take the Aztecs, too.
Among Boise State’s announced reasons for considering the move in the midst of its inaugural MWC season is, “It is simply not the same conference we first agreed to join,” school president Bob Kustra has said.
Since Boise State signed on, BYU and Texas Christian have jumped ship — or will. Fresno State, Nevada and UH will be added as replacements for 2012.
In other words, there goes the neighborhood.
UH, however, is the only one of the bunch that had to agree to subsidize opponents’ travel costs as a condition of membership. Or “travel cost sharing” as the two-page agreement would prefer it be known.
Whatever you call it, that’s real money for financially pressed UH with the Warriors required to pay teams from California $150,000 each for travel costs, and teams from “outside California” $175,000. That is essentially the amount of a charter flight, while UH is on the hook for 100 percent of its own travel. The concept of “sharing” extending only so far.
With four conference home games a year, that means forking over $600,000-$650,000 for the initial year (2012) with the travel subsidy adjusted annually, according to the contract.
There are no complaints on that score. It isn’t equal, but UH knew that going in and it is what the Warriors pledged to as a condition of membership. Mostly because the MWC, as then-constituted, was seen as more prestigious and advantageous than the WAC. UH will pay lesser travel costs for most of its other sports in the Big West in 2012, but that conference is not expecting membership changes.
But if the MWC substantially changes, then it is a situation UH needs to revisit with the MWC. Especially if, for example, the MWC were to pick up more new members beyond California. Or, if the MWC TV rights fees take a hit.
Travel costs have been a significant consideration in every intercollegiate league UH’s teams have played in, going back to their joining the Western Athletic Conference in men’s sports in 1979 and Big West for women in 1985.
UH eventually won a reversal of the burden of paying WAC travel subsidies in 1996 when that league underwent major change. Of course, the absence of subsidies also contributed to the Warriors not getting an MWC invite in 1999.
The MWC can always adopt a “take-it-or-leave-it” stance now, but if membership changes, UH shouldn’t be shy about at least asking.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 529-4820.