Rick Majerus doesn't want any of the money his teams helped earn for the Western Athletic Conference to go anywhere but to his Utah basketball program.
"We put on the buffet for both sides, and we're the ones who make the new league possible," the Utah men's basketball coach said while on vacation in Hawaii. "We're the breadwinner and the founder of the feast. We'd like to at least sit at the table."Utah was responsible for 16 of the Western Athletic Conference's 33 NCAA Tournament basketball units the past six seasons. The units, valued at $80,000 each, would deliver a $2.6 million check to the WAC next July. It has become the sticking point in negotiations between the two sides as they approach a June split of the 16-team league.
If Utah and the other seven departing members had stayed in the WAC, they would have received a share. Instead, according to NCAA president Cedric Dempsey, the units will be given only to the remaining eight because of an NCAA rule stating that units stay with a conference, not with a member leaving.
The remaining eight schools produced five of the WAC's 33 units.
"We're the ones who brought the league to prominence through our players and our academic success," Majerus said. "Although we played in the league, I never felt like we were carrying the banner for the league. We represented the University of Utah No. 1, the state No. 2. I just laugh because they're all trying to divide up the money we made for them. We never got a congratulatory letter from one school or a thank you note."
In the past six years, Utah's season ended twice in the second round and once in the national championship game, the Elite Eight and the Sweet 16.
"Someone should let Utah be at the party and share in it," Majerus said. "If this is a divorce, like every divorce, the only ones getting rich on this one are two law firms in Denver. We should all settle out of court and do what's fair."
Majerus said what's fair is for players to share in the wealth, whether with a postgraduate scholarship or money for parents to travel to games. That's not allowed by the NCAA. Instead, Utah would have used the share for its department.
"We have issues relative to Utah, like the pay scale of my own staff and how our team travels and meal allotment, that could be affected by not having the share of the money," Majerus said. "We need a new floor, and our carpeting that surrounds our floor looks like the dance hall of the American Legion post after a Friday night of sock hops. We have no water pressure for our showers. I've been in Third World countries that had better water pressure than our showers. We could use that money for capital repairs. The team most responsible should share in the money."