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Report: University of Delaware to make move to FBS in 2025

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University of Delaware Blue Hens Football Stadium Newark

The University of Delaware is planning a move to the highest level of college sports, the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), as soon as 2025, according to ESPN. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

NEWARK – The University of Delaware will make a long-debated move to college sports’ highest level by joining Conference USA, a top-tier Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conference, in 2025, according to a report Monday by ESPN.

UD is negotiating a move from the second-tier Coastal Athletic Association (CAA), a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) conference, to the C-USA, where it would become the 11th school. An announcement on a deal could come as early as this week, according to ESPN’s Peter Thamel.

A move to college sports’ highest level – one that is principally due to the financial riches of college football but would affect all 21 UD teams – would mean that UD would no longer be a big fish in a small pond, having won six national titles overall at the lower levels, winning an FCS title in 2003 and playing in two more title games in the last two decades.

Instead, UD would compete in a conference of schools that currently spans as far west as New Mexico and as far south as Miami, Fla.

Member schools for football include Florida International University, Jacksonville State University in Alabama, Liberty University in Virginia, Louisiana Tech University, Middle Tennessee State University, New Mexico State University, Sam Houston State University in Texas, the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and Western Kentucky University. Starting next year, Georgia’s Kennesaw State University is joining the conference as well.

Delaware would have some ties to C-USA, with K.C. Keeler, a former title-winning coach at UD, now coaching Sam Houston State, where current UD Coach Ryan Carty once worked as well.

But UD has seen many of its traditional CAA rivals leave for the higher level of play, including James Madison University, Old Dominion University, University of Massachusetts, and Georgia State University. Other strong FCS schools like Appalachian State University and Coastal Carolina University have made the move and had successful seasons among non-Power 5 conferences.

UD leaders have been planning for a move to the FBS for years, as evidenced by a $60 million upgrade to the school’s football stadium to build the Whitney Athletic Center and a new $85 million campaign to build an indoor practice/office facility connected to a newly enclosed north end of Delaware Stadium, according to The News Journal.

A move to C-USA would also come with the biggest price tag in FCS history, as Delaware would be the first school to pay a new $5 million application fee to move up a division. The NCAA Division I Council raised that fee from just $5,000 earlier this year, in part to stem the tide of schools defecting to the higher division.

The move to FBS would be lucrative from the start for UD though, as the TV broadcast rights deal for C-USA is worth significantly more.

Last year, C-USA signed a five-year media rights contract with CBS Sports Network and ESPN that would provide an estimated $800,000 to each school per year, according to the Sports Business Journal. Meanwhile, the CAA signed a four-year extension worth more than $10 million with FloSports and CBS Sports in February, which provided member schools about $100,000 and the right to sell additional game broadcasts to local channels.

The move to C-USA would take two years, and while UD could compete in the FCS next year it would not be eligible for the subdivision’s annual playoff bracket. That means its current run, which continues Saturday against No. 2 University of Montana, would be its final chance to win another FCS title.

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