PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - As the tide continues to change in college athletics, Old Dominion continues its plans to move up to Conference USA.
What does that mean for the future of Monarchs' athletic program?
As conference affiliations continue to change almost every week, Old Dominion officials say they are thrilled with their decision to move their football program up to to Division I-A and join Conference USA.
The Monarchs join more than a dozen members in Conference USA, as well as other schools like Louisiana Tech, FIU, Charlotte, University of Texas-San Antonio, and North Texas. Commissioner Britton Banowsky of Conference USA made his first ever visit to Hampton Roads, as guest speaker at the 67th annual Portsmouth Sports Club Jamboree - and was asked why Conference USA wanted Old Dominion.
"We set the strategy that we were going to big universities and big markets and tried invest in the schools that had great upside potential," Banowsky said.
ODU'S move to Conference USA isn't just having a major impact on sports like basketball and football. Golf, rowing, and tennis are already competing in the conference this spring. Wrestling had to find a new home in the MAC.
However, scheduling football games may have been the toughest task of all.
Filling the seats at S-B Ballard Stadium has never been a problem for Old Dominion since they started their football program.
Filling the schedule for next season -- that's a different story. A lot of work went into making sure ODU would play a full 12-game schedule as an independent. A testament to the ODU staff, especially Associate Athletic Director Bruce Stewart who made sure Bobby Wilder's team didn't take too many weekends off.
"We think ODU fits that bill perfectly and we have a great large university and a great market place and they're very competitive. The football team is doing unbelievable things and the fans are amazing. They sell out every game so it's that mix of things that really brings value to the conference," Banowsky said.
Old Dominion will travel to Maryland, North Carolina and Pittsburgh next season, along with away games at East Carolina and Idaho.
One guy who is very much looking forward to next season is Walter Payton Award winner Taylor Heinicke.
Heinicke will get to test his talents against the team that passed up on him during the recruiting process (ECU). As if he hasn't won enough awards, on Tuesday he took home another at the 67th Annual Portsmouth Sports Club Jamboree. Heinicke was named the Male College Athlete of the Year. Besides ECU, Taylor said he's really looking forward to playing at Pittsburgh.
"Yeah, absolutely there's not going to be 5,000 people in a 80,000 seat dome, so it's going to be exciting. The fact that we have a lot Pittsburgh Steelers fans on our team, there's a lot of guys who are looking forward to that game," said Heinicke.
Hienicke said he's been working on his footwork this off season as he gets ready for the tougher schedule.
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