President: 'No comment, for the time being'

Updated: October 23, 2003, 9:53 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Marshall University's board of governors will discuss the school's conference ties during a special Friday morning meeting, university officials said.

Marshall President Dan Angel declined to say Thursday if the school has been invited to join Conference USA.

"No comment, for the time being," Angel said. The board "will make one of three choices -- stay with the current conference, go to a new conference or say they're not ready to make a decision."

WSAZ-TV in Charleston-Huntington reported Thursday evening that the school's board of governors would vote unanimously to request C-USA membership, but some board members refuted that report.

"I'd say they absolutely jumped the gun," said vice chairman Menis Ketchum, who also is chairman of the board's activities committee. He said the issue has not been presented and no preliminary poll of members has been taken.

Conference USA officials visited the Marshall campus on Monday. C-USA officials did not return telephone messages Thursday.

Marshall, the Mid-American Conference's most successful football program since joining in 1997, has won five of the past six conference titles and has played in each of the league's six championship games. The Thundering Herd are 49-8 in MAC games.

Leaving the MAC would cost Marshall at least $200,000 in exit fees.

But if Marshall's departure is effective before Aug. 1, 2006, the school's exit fee would rise to $400,000, MAC spokesman Bryan McGowan said.

Northern Illinois, the most recent school to leave the MAC, exited after the 1985 football season but rejoined in 1997, McGowan said.

Conference USA is repositioning itself for the next round of league shake-ups.

The Atlantic Coast Conference snatched Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech from the Big East, which now is expected to invite Marquette, Cincinnati, DePaul and Louisville from Conference USA.

In response, C-USA has added Rice, Southern Methodist and Tulsa from the Western Athletic Conference, which likely will invite New Mexico State and Utah State from the Sun Belt.

Two years ago, Marshall turned down consideration from C-USA to become a football-only member because the Herd couldn't find a suitable league for its other sports.

A conference switch could mean a big payday for Marshall football coach Bob Pruett. A provision in his new contract calls for an automatic renegotiation if Marshall leaves the MAC.

Pruett is guaranteed $226,000 per year through 2010, with an additional $122,000 in annual performance incentives, according to a contract signed in August.

Current C-USA member Louisville pays coach Bob Petrino a base salary of $450,000, plus $250,000 in incentives, and East Carolina coach John Thompson makes between $350,000 and $400,000 annually.

Other C-USA football coaches' contract terms were not immediately available.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press