JMU to AAC: One money thing doesn’t seem to add up

The AAC is looking for a new member to replace UConn, which is on its way back to the Big East, and it happens that there are three schools in Virginia that could fit the bill.

Reading a recent story by Wayne Epps Jr. in the Times-Dispatch examining the resumes of ODU, Liberty and JMU – Epps also brought up VCU as a possibility, though without a football program, I’m not sure VCU makes any sense for the AAC – I think a possible lede may have been buried with respect to JMU.

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Epps offered in the piece two nuggets of financial information that are of great interest to me: that JMU has an overall athletics budget, at $45.9 million annually, that is in the neighborhood of other AAC programs, and that JMU already spends more money on football than the likes of AAC member ECU (at $11.9 million in 2017-2018, to ECU’s $11.2 million).

Which, huh.

So, JMU spends more on football than ECU.

Which just poached JMU football coach Mike Houston to be its new coach, paying Houston about $1.5 million a year over the next five years (starting at $1.3 million in 2019, with raises that take the contract to $1.67 million in 2023).

Houston was making between $500,000 and $600,000 a year at JMU, the range reflecting variances in performance bonuses.

The narrative at the time that ECU was making its play for Houston, who was also being courted aggressively by Charlotte to take over its moribund program, was that JMU couldn’t compete financially as an FCS school with an FBS school.

Except that: JMU actually spends more on football than ECU does?

Part of the issue here is that ECU apparently doesn’t spend money wisely when it comes to athletics.

Even so …

JMU is already spending as much as the big boys, and if it’s going to make the leap to official big-boy status, it’s going to have to spend even more.

I think the point is moot, personally. If the AAC has any interest in any of the Virginia schools, it would seem to be ODU, with the Norfolk TV market, and football and basketball programs that would be competitive from the outset.

BYU as a football-only member makes even more sense.

But, hey, dream big, JMU.

Story by Chris Graham

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