Cash marks.


The University of Michigan guaranteed $400,000 to visiting Appalachian State University's football team in 2007, never dreaming the game would produce a stunning upset. App returned to Ann Arbor in August. The Wolverines whipped the Mountaineers 52-14 this time, but the Boone school got $1 million, $300,000 more than it would have had it stayed in the Southern Conference, its home for 43 years. It's one example of how moving up to the Sun Belt Conference--and the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision--this year ran up the score. App anticipates a $1.2 million annual increase in revenue from richer TV contracts and proceeds SUN Belt members share when its teams make NCAA bowl games or the basketball tournament. The athletics department budget increased 25% to $20 million this fiscal year, mostly for 20 more football scholarships and higher travel costs--Sun Belt schools are scattered from Georgia to Idaho. App also paid $600,000 to exit its old conference and $1 million to enter its new one. Though the team has not ranked nationally in recent years--it posted 19...

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