We’ve heard this story before. A mid-major program outgrows its conference, has ambitious plans to grow, and nowhere to land.
Wichita State is looking to exit the Missouri Valley Conference for greener pastures – flush with an influx of University cash and a basketball program that has been making noise in March.
The Shockers’ biggest draw is its basketball program, which has been to a school-record five consecutive NCAA Tournaments, and went 35-1 during the 2013-14 season, which culminated in a final Four berth.
Of course, losing Wichita State would be a considerable blow to the Missouri Valley Conference, which already lost perennial power Creighton to the Big East in the last round of realignment. Loyola Chicago, formerly of the Horizon League, filled the Blue Jays’ spot.
Wichita State, emboldened by their recent basketball success and an aggressive University president, are looking at everything in their athletic department- including bringing their football program out of mothballs 30 years after they stopped competing. According to President John Bardo, everything is on the table when it comes to athletics at WSU.
The Shockers are already talking publicly about the Mountain West as a potential landing spot – becoming the conference’s 12th football program – should they choose to bring the sport back – and 13th basketball school.
According to Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, if Wichita State plans to park its basketball program in a new conference, “It ain’t going to be us.” Why? According to CBS Sports, it’s a simple case of economics. The league would be splitting its media rights revenue 13 ways instead of 12 in basketball if it added the Shockers. It is also unlikely that Mountain West’s media rights holders (ESPN, CBS Sports Network) would renegotiate their current contracts to include additional revenue for a 12th basketball school.
The conference’s disinterest in New Mexico State and UTEP as possible members- who are already better off in football, but worse off in basketball than Wichita – are a good example of how difficult and costly adding football might be. They might be able to gain admittance to Conference USA or even the American Athletic Conference but does that give Wichita State greater status and competition than the Valley? Having a high-flying basketball program does not ensure entry into a better conference.
And the cost to add football? If Wichita State adds FBS football, it would cost in the neighborhood of $50 million to build the program from scratch, several industry sources told CBS Sports. A renovation of Cessna Stadium, the old football facility, would cost at least $20 million alone and the annual budget would be 13-15 million dollars to operate. LetsGoDU has always seen football as a terrible option for DU and this is exactly the reason why DU will never and should never even think of football again – while putting their entire athletics department at risk.
The Shocker feasibility study, which has been going on for over a year, will be released within the next two months. While Wichita State may eventually be clear about what they want to do, like most mid-majors, they will have much less control over their eventual conference affiliation.