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The University of Southern Indiana (USI) is movin'-on-up from NCAA Division II to Division I, joining the Ohio Valley Conference (without football). On February 7, the USI Board of Trustees voted in favor of the move, willing to submit to a four-year probationary period and despite the fact the NCAA is also going through a constitutional crisis.

Conceivably, USI will be on track to compete for a spot in March Madness in 2025 (if it still exists in its current form). With the sparkling new 4,800-seat Screaming Eagles Arena, USI can create a rivalry on the same level with nearby DI University of Evansville.

USI had better bring a bank of money to join the club.  It will be expensive. 

More:University of Southern Indiana moving to NCAA Division I sports

Moving up to DI is a long-term, financial investment heavily relying upon subsidization from the general fund and students to help pay the athletics bills, due to the lack of consistent significant revenue generated by athletics.  

In the end, regardless of the size or stature of the institution, it’s an expensive proposition to use athletics for institutional prestige.

USI leaders admitted they will need to double their annual athletics budget from $6.6 million to about $12 million. There are concerns.  In a USI Division I Exploratory Committee survey released in January, 49% of all respondents were against the move, 62% of retirees didn't think it was a wise idea, 60% of faculty thought it was not prudent, and 48% of the student body voted against it 

Still, Division I is coming to USI. Why? Prestige. The type of prestige that comes with March Madness (not football prestige, which is even more expensive). 

Cinderella prestige through men's basketball is the potential to be associated with the likes of previous Cinderellas Gonzaga, Butler, George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth, Loyola-Chicago, Florida Gulf Coast and Wichita State. But how long does this basketball prestige last? Is it viable? Is the cost of prestige from basketball worth it?

The Knight-Newhouse College Athletics database provides a look at a median public school's finances in NCAA Division I schools without football (DI-NFS). It is reasonable to assume one must be at least in the middle of many to be competitive. There are 46 public NFS schools with data available, ranging from a low total athletics expense budget of $4.1 million (Coppin State) in 2020 to a high of $34.5 million (Virginia Commonwealth).


The median public NFS school has annual athletics expenses of $15.5 million as of 2020, up 27% from $12.2 million in 2011 (after adjusted for inflation). As a percentage of that budget, more than half (56%) is spent on coaches (21%) & staff (17%) compensation, facilities and equipment (18%).

Revenues of the median public NFS school demonstrate a heavy and growing dependency of NFS schools’ reliance on subsidization to pay the athletics bills: 82% of its athletics revenue in 2020 was subsidized, an increase from 78% in 2011 (after adjusting for inflation). Of the $15.2 million in athletics revenues, median NFS public schools received 38% from the institution’s general fund and 44% from student fees. 

 USI has identified this risk, admitting student fees will increase by $475 per year to pay for athletics expenses by the time USI is a full-time D1 member in 2025.

Long-term investments in athletics mean debt, particularly to build facilities to compete on a grand scale.  The median growth rate of athletics debt of public NFS schools, adjusted for inflation, is up 262% from 2015-2020 to $5.3 million.  The median growth rate of athletics debt service (like an annual credit card payment) for median public NFS schools, adjusted to inflation, increased 157% to $658,000. 

Finally, a review of growth rates in overall athletics spending to academic spending (academic spending comes from the US Department of Education's IPEDS database) also demonstrates priorities.  The median Division I NFS publics' growth rate of total athletics expenses rose 27% from 2011-2020, three times as much as the growth in overall academic spending of 9%, after adjusting for inflation.  Spending more on athletics may be a greater priority for greater prestige than spending on academics.

To be Cinderella takes money. A whole lot of it. The Kool-Aid of March Madness provides a buzz, like a couple of shots of tequila. Expensive tequila. If it works, it's fun while it lasts. But, most get a headache when the bottle is empty, and most find their wallets empty when the buzz wears off. March Madness is an expensive cost for institutional prestige, if you can make it, and if you can make it last.  

Big, big mistake for USI.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm afraid USI's D1 Basketball fortunes will pretty much play out like that of their moribund neighbor to the north, IUPUI:


Note: Story is behind a paywall



 It’s almost March, and absolute madness: IUPUI basketball will play its Horizon League Tournament opener Tuesday night at Oakland with five players.

Not five scholarship players, or even five healthy players. Just, players. Five of them. Total.

What happens, I’m asking IUPUI coach Matt Crenshaw, if someone fouls out?

“We’ll play a box,” he says, and I’m starting to laugh, because I know where he’s going.

“Not a box-and-one,” he says. “Just a box.”

Now Crenshaw is laughing, a deep sound like rolling thunder that starts somewhere back in December, back when the craziest, zaniest story of the 2021-22 college basketball season began. Back when the thunderclouds started to form over a program that has seen nothing but rain for years.

Before we get to the genesis of this story, a story as hard and unforgiving as the Old Testament, let’s start with the names:


  • Mike DePersia, 5-11 junior guard from Cherry Hill, N.J.
  • Nathan McClure, 6-4 junior guard from Houston.
  • B.J. Maxwell, 6-5 senior guard from Austin, Texas.
  • Boston Stanton III, 6-5 freshman guard from Denver.
  • Chuks Isitua, 6-11 freshman center from Lagos, Nigeria.

That’s who will represent 12th-seeded IUPUI (3-25, 1-16 Horizon) on Tuesday night. That’s 39.7 ppg, combined. That’s 36.9% shooting from the floor, and 28.9% from 3-point range. That’s 171 assists, and 236 turnovers.

That’s all, folks.



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  • 5 months later...

USI has been able to routinely beat or stay with Evansville in MBB over the past decade. We'll see...

SW Indiana has experienced a disproportionate amount of HS baseball success over the past decade and deep ties to USI. We'll see.

It's not the big sports where I expect USI to have trouble... it's with the women's and secondary sports. Additionally, USI will have to solve the attendance issues which UE experiences. Perhaps USI is better equipped to do so because of a larger student body, but. We'll see.


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On 2/16/2022 at 10:11 AM, Muda69 said:

I went to two games during my entire time at USI. 

Our student section was given shirts with the school song printed on them upside down so that the students could read them and sing the song. 

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