Big East price tag remains unknown

When it comes to what it will cost USF to enter the Big East, the answer is a big blank.

While Big East officials say it is an institute’s decision whether to release these figures, USF officials simply say a figure has yet to be set.

“Nobody has brought me numbers yet,” said Michael Rierson, USF’s vice president of university advancement. “But we have been discussing with commissioners the entrance and exit fees.”

Though schools like Virginia Tech paid $1 million to the ACC and Boston College is expecting to pay $2 million, the Big East will not confirm if USF’s entrance fee is a similar figure.

“We don’t generally release that information,” said Rob Carolla, director of communications for the Big East Conference. “We really don’t have a set number for each time we’ve had an expansion. We’re not really able to disclose publicly how much the schools pay … they decide if they want to disclose that information.”

Tom Veit, associate director of athletics, said USF athletic director Lee Roy Selmon is still in the process of negotiating with Big East officials on an entrance fee.

Selmon could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

USF agreed on a $1-million entrance fee to Conference USA and the University of Central Florida is expecting to pay the same amount when USF exits in 2005, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

USF announced Nov. 4 that it would join the Big East in 2005 along with Louisville and Cincinnati as all-sports members, and Marquette and DePaul, as non-football members.

The eight original members that made up the league in 1979 were exempt from paying an entrance fee. The last expansion to the Big East was in 1995 when Notre Dame, Rutgers and West Virginia began playing. John Hessler, athletic director of Notre Dame, wouldn’t disclose the college’s entrance fee. Neither would Rutgers, West Virginia or Pittsburgh. Louisville, Marquette, DePaul and Cincinnati did not return messages requesting information about their entrance fees.

While USF is in the process of negotiating entrance fee costs, Veit added that USF is also in the process of deciding how they will pay for the fees. Instead of making money during the first two years from television contracts and bowl appearances, Veit said USF would use that money for fees.

“That’s been done by some schools in the past. They use the revenue from NCAA basketball tournaments or television contracts in the first year to divert the costs,” Carolla said.

The pay out for bowl games, Carolla said, starts with pay out for first place, continuing down in terms of how teams finished during the season. Those teams who do not enter bowls still receive a pay-out, Carolla said, but not as substantial.

The Bowl Championship Series awards $13 million to each team playing in one of four bowls, the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange bowls, to which the Big East champion earns an automatic berth.

Another source of revenue for the schools are television contracts. The Big East currently has contract deals with ABC/ESPN and CBS until 2007, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Carolla said money coming from television contracts is put into a pool, and the more a team is televised the greater the revenue.

According to, the Big East has a $15-million per-year contract with the network.

Rierson said a majority of the payments would come from TV contracts, adding that USF will also receive some assistance from fund-raising and increased ticket sales.

“We’re looking at much more aggressive fund raising in all of athletics as well as academic enterprise,” Rierson said. “We’re not going to use any dollars from academics to pay for (Big East) fees.”

From 1995 — 2001, the USF Foundation has raised about $255 million and has had about 99,350 donors, according to its Web site.

Vicki Mitchell, associate athletic director for development, said the USF Foundation is planning to start a more aggressive fund-raising strategy for USF’s move to the Big East.

Mitchell said donors will still decide how their funds will be used, and scholarships will still be a priority in fund-raising, but the conference change is an extra incentive to raise more money.

“I think that, clearly, this is an opportunity for us to really take of advantage of that momentum even more and to be more aggressive in athletics and where we see ourselves in the next five years,” Mitchell said. “This is a different class form, and it’s quite unusual for a program as young as ours to be in this position.”