When I wrote about why March Madness and the BCS are not really comparable, I finished by making the point that Division I (and I-A in football) are simply too big. One school is now providing evidence of that fact.
Jay Christensen wrote a post this morning about Lousiana-Monroe. At $8.5 million, the ULM athletics budget is the smallest in I-A. By comparison, Alabama will pay Nick Saban and his two coordinators $7.46 million for the 2011 season.
Of course, most of us just got a chuckle about how UL-M beat Saban and Alabama in 2007, but that's beside the point. ULM moved up to I-A in 1994 and has yet to make a bowl. It's only been bowl eligible just twice, in 2007 and 2009, but no bowl would extend an invite. Both of those times the team was 6-6, which means the school hasn't had a winning season in I-A.
So by any sensible measure, ULM doesn't belong on the top level of football. Not only has it been nowhere close to contending on a national level, it have seldom been competitive in the nation's worst conference (the Sun Belt). It's probably time to make a change.
The change the school wants to make is adding a $10 per credit hour (up to 12 hours) student fee to boost the athletics budget. The 6,000 or so students at the school will vote on the fee this week, but Christensen points out that it doesn't seem to be terribly popular in some corners of the ULM fan base.
If the students vote the fee down, you have to wonder what future ULM has in I-A football. It's not very competitive now, and it's not going to be with the budget it has. I don't highlight this to pick on the school, because it's far from alone. For example New Mexico State hasn't made a bowl since 1960, UAB has made one bowl since coming to I-A in 1996, and Akron has made one bowl since coming to I-A in 1987.
The pretense that these programs are on the same level as everyone else in I-A is fooling no one, and the financial losses they incur despite playing several paycheck games a year don't help the institutions. I-A simply needs to get smaller.