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Accord saves USF $500,000

Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky saw the inevitable coming _ several marquee teams were jumping to the Big East _ and figured there had to be a way to make the best of it.

Count South Florida as a smiling beneficiary.

The Bulls won't pay the expected $500,000 exit fee to C-USA for jumping to the Big East in 2005-06 along with Cincinnati, Louisville, DePaul and Marquette. Instead, C-USA will protect the worth of its television packages by requiring the departing schools to schedule C-USA teams.

"The bottom line is we converted a policy that was punitive in nature (the exit fee) to one that was collaborative," said Banowsky, who noted the high value of basketball games involving Cincinnati and Louisville. "Rather than pound them on the way out the door, we worked together for everyone's benefit."

Conference USA may request only one football and two basketball games a year vs. USF from 2005-06 through '09-10, an arrangement USF associate athletic director Tom Veit said works well.

"We already have Central Florida (a new C-USA team) on the schedule the first two years," Veit said. "The games they ask us to schedule likely are ones we would have wanted to schedule anyway due to national TV implications.

"It's a win-win for everyone."

USF also is pleased with its Big East deal. A public records request of the Big East Conference Membership Expansion Agreement revealed USF owes $2.5-million for Big East entry, $2-million if the Big East loses its BCS berth before '09-10. But the school can "pay" by forfeiting $500,000 of its annual revenue sharing allotment during each of its first five years in the league.

USF also owes the Big East about $200,000 up front to cover its "pro rata share of the conference and football reserve fund payments." Big East associate commissioner John Marinatto said the conference maintains the funds in case of emergencies. USF could contribute its share through an additional deduction of future revenues.

The Big East, which historically has not required direct transactions to cover entrance fees, estimates each school's revenue share for '05-06 at $2.8-million, leaving USF with roughly a $2.1-million payout its first year.

"It's a deduction of future revenues, so we do not have to put any upfront cash to go into the Big East or out of Conference USA," Veit said. "We do not have to write a check, and we'll get a check."

Added vice president for university advancement Michael Rierson: "Both conferences have worked with us to make a very advantageous transition."

Other provisions of the C-USA departure include the league keeping money earned by past performances of the departing schools in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The NCAA pays tournament money to conferences based on the performance of its schools over six seasons. For each game played in the NCAA Tournament except the final, Banowsky said the league gets about $160,000 annually for six years. Those payments will not follow the departing teams.

Also, USF paid C-USA a $300,000 annual "assessment," Banowsky said, to cover operating expenses ($150,000 when it was a basketball-only member). The Big East does not have annual dues, Veit said.

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said he does not comment on money or agreements. However, he said there has been no change in the timeline for the transition, with Boston College remaining in the Big East through 2004-05 and the C-USA schools joining that summer when BC moves to the ACC.

USF's remaining significant financial issue is its $1-million football entry fee to C-USA, on which it will owe $600,000 when it leaves. Veit and Banowsky said that figure is being negotiated.

"We fully believe we can work it out to everyone's satisfaction," Veit said.