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ODU careful before conference move

5/3/2012

The Old Dominion Monarchs are just the latest collegiate athletics program to be swept up in conference realignment, which appears to have officially moved beyond its major-conference stages and into smaller, mid-major leagues like the WAC, the Horizon League, and the CAA. Johnny Cash wasn't talking about football television rights in Folsom Prison, but let's borrow his phrase anyway: The train keeps a'rollin'.

According to the Virginia Pilot, the Monarchs are one of a handful of teams asked to join Conference USA in advance of the league's desired expansion plan announcement Friday. The move could make sense, especially if VCU and George Mason leave for another league (most likely the Atlantic 10) as has been rumored in recent weeks. At the very least, ODU would get out of the decimated CAA while it still can, and that kind of opportunity can't be ignored.

But -- punny segue alert! -- ODU isn't jumping aboard just yet. From the Pilot:

Old Dominion might not be ready to announce a jump to Conference USA by Friday, when the league is expected to unveil expansion plans. That doesn't mean school officials aren't strongly considering the offer, or that the league is no longer interested.

A few days aren't enough time to weigh the pros and cons of a move that would chart the future course of the athletic department, sources familiar with the decision-making process said Wednesday.

Indeed, it appears C-USA has asked Old Dominion to decide on a hugely important move in the matter of a few days, hardly enough time for the school to weigh the various pros and cons and present a case either for or against to the school's board of visitors. That's a hard thing to do in a few days' time.

ODU has other concerns, too, concerns that feel both admirable and quaint at this stage in the realignment process:

The financial implications of a move are the overriding concern -- particularly the possible effect on student fees in a tough economy and a climate of ever-increasing college costs. [...] "We've always been cognizant of the cost of attending the university," he said. "It has to work not only for the athletes at ODU, but for all the students."

Wait a second: You're saying Old Dominion is considering not only its athletics programs and the chase of on-field glory, but the costs and benefits for regular students, too? Awww! You guys! That's adorable!

I kid, but it is refreshing. Many schools in this position would jump at the chance to join a league like C-USA, and ODU may still do so before Friday's announcement. But it is nice to see a school take a step back and a deep breath before plunging into another realm altogether. If only the rest of the college sports landscape approached these things with similar levels of reason. Alas.