C-USA defectors may be on the hook for $7 million apiece

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A recent piece in the Orlando Sentinel lays out the financial ramifications of leaving Conference USA.

UCF, HoustonMemphis and SMU will move to the Big East before the 2013-14 season. They are each contractually obligated to pay their annual share of television revenue under Conference USA’s dual contracts with Fox Sports Network and CBS Sports for five years and an additional one-time $500,000 fee. That totals about $7 million.

The Sentinel article estimates that the four new members of the Big East can make as much as $11.4 million per year as all-sports members of the league, which should cushion the blow, but $7 million is certainly nothing to sneeze at.

In the past, C-USA has been known to negotiate scheduling concessions in exchange for reduced exit fees. According to league commissioner Britton Branowsky, no such arrangements will be made this time out.

“We did that last time because we wanted to retain as much value as possible while negotiating television contracts, and it’s something our members really wanted, but I’m not hearing that this time around,” Banowsky told the Sentinel. “I think there is a lot of interest in these universities and natural rivals playing each other, but we haven’t talked about tying it to a policy.”

If realignment has taught us anything, it’s that exit fees don’t really deter much of anything. But surely C-USA can find some good use for the cash they’ll be collecting, even if it won’t salve their pride.