The allure and profits of big-time college football have proven irresistible even as the initial costs to get there have risen exponentially.
The University of Delaware will move to the Football Bowl Subdivision’s Conference USA in 2025, as first reported by ESPN.
Upon moving up from the Football Championship Subdivision’s Coastal Athletic Association, Delaware will be the first football program in the country to pay a $5 million application fee to the FBS; the NCAA increased the number from $5,000 as part of a series of changes in October.
The Fightin’ Blue Hens will become C-USA’s 11th team after Kennesaw State joined from the FCS Big South Conference in July. The Owls begin C-USA play in 2024, and the conference hopes to eventually expand to 12 teams, with Missouri State, Eastern Kentucky, and Tarleton State reported candidates to fill the spot.
C-USA lost six members — Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB, and UTSA — to the American Athletic Conference as part of realignment in the last year.
While Kennesaw will reap the benefits of FBS football without the increased fee, Delaware may not mind given how fast it will earn that money back.
According to the most recent available tax returns, the CAA collects about $9 million in revenue per season, while C-USA brings in about $40 million; in any given year, each C-USA school is taking in between $1 million and $4 million after distributions from the conference, meaning Delaware stands to recoup the cost of that application fee fairly quickly.
Front Office Sports reporter Amanda Christovich contributed reporting for this story.