There’s been a number of rumors floating around of late to share: Charlotte to CAA (football only) & App St. to CUSA.
Note, that these are just rumors. But I’ve heard them and have now seen multiple sites discuss them as well.
So here’s the breakdown:
Charlotte & CAA Football:
The CAA is in an interesting upcoming position. The conference took over football sponsorship from the Atlantic 10, when they brought in Northeastern as a full member. Go figure that Northeastern has since dropped football, along with CAA member Hofstra. But with ODU and Georgia St. slated to join CAA Football, there will still be 6 full CAA members to maintain the brand.
But the CAA could be set for some transitions. Villanova is set to join the Big East as a football member, all they need to do is say “yes”. Fellow CAA Football member UMass, is hoping to get a football-only invitation to join the MAC, the conference home of it’s fellow A10 member and rival Temple. Both schools seem poised to leave sooner than later, which would bring down the membership numbers. There are also concerns that with URI moving to the NEC and if UMass left for the MAC, that the final remaining northeast schools, UNH and Maine might seek other options. UNH has been considered, albeit a longshot, as a potential FBS upgrade as well…but would seem to be without a conference home. But there does exist the chance that UNH and Maine, if isolated with Towson (MD) as the closest football conference rivals, could consider a minor downgrade to join the more regional NEC. There also exists the chance that schools in the America East for it’s other sports such as UNH, Maine, Albany and Stony Brook, could one day form a new FCS conference, perhaps with other regional schools such as URI. Such a move would still require a minimum of 6 schools, so it would likely require the sponsoring conference, like the America East, to pull some sort of a coup by bringing in football schools such as CCSU as full members.
But as for the CAA, just with Villanova and UNH tilting towards leaving, it does open some potential membership holes.
But Charlotte, despite it’s ideal location in relation to the CAA, is an odd choice.
Sure, you have ODU, William & Mary and Georgia St. nearby, as well as JMU not far north from Charlotte. But Charlotte has made it clear that they indent to upgrade to FBS. Their ultimate goal would be joining schools like WVU, USF, Louisville, Cincinnati, Pitt, etc in the Big East. But that would likely require the Big East to split and then opt to expand from the eventual 10 number to 12. It might even take something more radical like a split and then defections by schools such as Syracuse, UConn, Rutgers, etc to make room for Charlotte in the Big East.
Charlotte would also have it’s eyes on a return to CUSA, joining members such as Memphis, ECU, UCF, UAB, Houston and others.
But first things first, Charlotte needs to field a team, find success at the FCS level within it’s own community, and then impress a conference to invite them to FBS, a prerequisite to upgrading to FBS.
So if the school is already planning to leave, why would the CAA invite them? It would seem that if the CAA does formally invite Charlotte for football-only, it would simply fill a membership spot in the present. But it might also be a way to impress Charlotte enough so that if their FBS aspirations don’t happen, then maybe the school would move it’s other sports from the A10 to the nearby CAA.
Time will tell if Charlotte has indeed been offered CAA football membership and if they accept. But it would appear that Charlotte, in need of a temporary FCS home, would jump at the chance to join a conference at the level of the CAA….and build rivalries with schools such as JMU, ODU, GA State.
Appalachian St. and CUSA:
The idea of Appalachian St. in CUSA is one that has always made sense. With such a strong Texas/West presence since the departures of USF, Louisville and Cincinnati, the remaining eastern CUSA schools such as UCF, ECU and Marshall have long desired more eastern schools. This year, the CUSA basketball tournament is in El Paso. If you’re ECU, UCF or Marshall, you can rule out any portion of your fan base making that road trip.
For the past 6 months, we’ve heard various reports of CUSA “exploring” different membership ideas. These included TCU joining for non-football sports if the Big East had only extended a football invitation. It also includes preliminary discussions with Temple about joining. There have even been reports that CUSA has at some level, considered less popular options such as bringing in both Temple and it’s rival, UMass.
But the CUSA options don’t stop there.
There have been reports that despite the lower TV revenue, they have considered expansion to 16 schools, perhaps with some of the schools just mentioned, as well as other potential upgrades such as JMU, Delaware, and new WAC invitees UTSA and Texas St. And there is always North Texas, whom many think would be the top CUSA candidate, as well as LA Tech, the WAC school that has long wanted to join CUSA.
And we can’t forget about the potential CUSA/MWC merger ideas to expand to 20 when the MWC lost Utah and BYU. That eventual turned to discussions about perhaps joining TV forces (which is no longer an option) or a potential BCS “play-in” game between the CUSA and MWC champions.
So one thing is for sure…CUSA is considering all it’s options, to be in a better position than they were in 2004 following the departures of Louisville, Cincinnati and USF.
And it appears that Appalachian St. is a very real option for CUSA. But it would take Appalachian St. opting to upgrade to FBS first.
But it does mean that either CUSA expects to lose members and need replacements (such as UCF or Houston to the Big East) or they are thinking outside the box to expand to 13-16 members.
Perhaps Charlotte too could be an option for any of these scenarios.
Southwest Conference Revival?
The western presence in CUSA has certainly changed the makeup of CUSA. The change has created some tensions with the eastern schools as each one has made it clear they would prefer to be in the Big East. The western schools have made less noise, perhaps knowing that they are less likely to join the Big 12 than an eastern school is to join the Big East. The eastern schools have long wanted a stronger easter presence, and the western schools seem to have the power to make that happen…in a couple ways.
Sure, they could expand to 14 by bringing in Appalachian St. and say Temple (or Charlotte). The conference could then split into two regional divisions:
East: Temple, Marshall, ECU, Appalachian St., UCF, Memphis, UAB
West: USM, Tulane, Tulsa, Houston, SMU, Rice, UTEP
But the western schools could also pull a more daring move: leave Conference USA.
Some rumors exist that Rice and SMU, former Southwest Conference members own the name “Southwest Conference”. And a minor revival could be a real option. Depending on the ultimate goals of such a radical move, membership could the same 7 “West” schools just mentioned, as well as other potential schools such as North Texas, UTSA, Texas St., New Mexico St. and LA Tech.
But due to the radical nature of such a move, one can see why it seems the least likely of the hot conference realignment rumors.
With such a change, these schools would be handing over the name “Conference USA” to the remaining members, likely to be UCF, Memphis, ECU, Marshall and UAB. These schools would likely be attempt to retain USM as the 6th member. Schools such as Appalachian St., Temple, Charlotte, JMU, ODU, UMass, Delaware and others would become potential targets.
So in many ways, the only way for a new east-coast FBS conference to form for all the potential upgrades like Appalachian St., UMass, JMU, ODU, Delaware, and Charlotte, would be for CUSA to go through radical change.
But the result would be the same: an FBS conference of larger state schools in the Big East/ACC footprint:
UMass, Temple, Delaware, JMU, Marshall, ECU, ODU
UCF, Appalachian St., Charlotte, UCF, Memphis, UAB, USM
Rumors exist and at times in this field, they come true. But thus far, all (3) seem like stretches. If I were a betting man and chose sports over playing casino online, I’d think that Charlotte to the CAA on a temporary basis seems the strongest to come to fruition.