While the NCAA may see some drastic changes as part of the new “Power Five” claiming the power to make changes amongst the association, conferences like the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference will have to weigh the multitude of ways those changes make an impact on their athletic programs.
However, with the big five conferences pushing through a rule allowing for schools to cover the full cost of attendance for student athletes, MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor said that the conference will require it for both men’s and women’s basketball.
“As a league we have said that basketball is our premiere sport, and as such, we’re going to support it in a way that it remains competitive with the other leagues in our region,” Ensor said.
The MAAC though does not have the same revenue streams that are coming through to the power conferences, especially with no money coming from football, which is how the power leagues primarily get their funding. While the conference has a deal with ESPN, Ensor said that the result on the budget is usually a net loss, which means that schools will likely have to be creative in budgeting how they fit in the cost of attendance for their athletes. He also added that the conference will make it mandatory for both men’s and women’s basketball, leaving how schools cover athletes in other sports up to the individual schools.
“I think there will be some support for other sports,” Ensor said. “We’ve got a couple of schools who have made a significant commitments to lacrosse and I think they’re going to see some funding needs there.”
“Depending on a sport by sport analysis of how schools have handled certain sports, they may want to add that as part of the financial aid packages, but I don’t think it will be widespread, but I do think we will see some instances outside of just basketball.”
Raising that money and keeping the budgets of a conference with 11 private institutions that mostly use a financial model built around tuition money is also a concern, considering that private colleges have seen a decline and concerns about rising tuition prices since the beginning of the recession. The conference, which operates on a budget of approximately $4 million annually, will also review the number of sports they sponsor.
“I think there are challenges in supporting a wide range of sports,” Ensor said. “I think we’re going to at least take a look at our sports sponsorship matrix and see if there is something that needs to be adjusted there. I don’t know that there will, but we are going to definitely study it.”
During the 2014-15 school year, the conference will support 25 sports, 16 of which will have the MAAC champion earn qualification in the NCAA championship in that sport. As recently as April 2013, the MAAC added field hockey, which will expand to a league of seven teams (Bryant and Sacred Heart among the schools as associate members) in 2015-16.
Ensor said that the idea to review came up in their last meeting with the conference’s council of presidents, but that no sport is in danger of being contracted.
“We have our core sports group, so we have basketball on both sides and then we have six or seven other sports that are part of that core,” Ensor said. “There’s no predetermined outcome other than to take a look at it.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.