CUSA/Mountain All-Sports Merger on Hold
It appeared that a Conference USA and Mountain West merger would come in just a matter of time. Now, it appears to be dead.
As it stands, the original plan (to dissolve both conferences and form something new) is off the table. What remains are two options:
1) Remain as 2 separate conferences with a football scheduling alliance
2) To eliminate one conference via a merger
Reasons for the change in plans?
Even at 16 schools, the conference would only get 1 post-season bid. This shouldn’t come as a shocker, since there have been 16 school conferences in the past, (2) 14 school BCS conferences, and only 1 bid for these conferences.
Tournament shares (basketball) are a bigger issue. If one or more conferences folded to form something new, all that tournament money would go to the schools…including departing ones like Boise St., SDSU, SMU, UCF, Memphis, Houston, rather than into the conference “pool”.
So how will things likely play out?
* CUSA and MWC will likely plan a scheduling alliance for football, rather than a full merger
* The scheduling alliance might still work to find a means to benefit both schools in the form of a cross-conference championship game. But with the BCS seemingly coming to an end in 2014, it’s unlikely there would be a real benefit.
* Mountain West expansion:
The MWC is down to 7 all-sport members, with Hawaii as the 8th football only. It is likely that Utah St. and San Jose St. are added to the MWC for a total of 9 all-sport members with 10 for football. Air Force is still a flight risk to join the Big East now that Navy will be joining (2015), which could bring the numbers to 8/9…which would still work. The MWC will likely remain at 9/10 to ensure they have room for Boise St. and San Diego St. should the Big East move fail to work long term.
* CUSA expansion:
CUSA, at 8 all-sports members, has more flexibility. They could opt to remain at 8 for all-sports, with the security of the MWC football scheduling alliance. At 8 members, it’s less mouths to feed of the split television and tournament revenue. Should CUSA expand, likely candidates would be North Texas (to replace the lost Dallas market), LA Tech (an established if not flashy option), UTSA (recent football addition and San Antonio market), FIU or FAU (to replace the loss of the lone Florida school, UCF), Appalachian St. (FCS upgrade candidate), and Charlotte (who plans on upgrading to FBS football).
As for UTEP, it had appeared that under a merger, UTEP would move to the MWC division, as it’s members reside closer to the school. It’s unlikely to happen now unless CUSA feels that the spot would be better used for another program in the immediate footprint and only if UTEP wanted to make the move.