CUSA to add UTSA & Others
Once a idea of a full merger between Conference USA and the Mountain West was put aside in order to preserve NCAA tournament revenues, bids, and conference exit fees, and an economic or even football alliance was favored, it was clear that both CUSA and the Mountain West would need to pull the trigger on some membership stability.
And they did.
Conference USA will add UTSA in 2013 as their first replacement following the departure of Memphis, UCF, Houston and SMU, per reports. The move makes sense as it gives CUSA even more presence in Texas, where with the departures of Houston and SMU, only Rice and UTEP remain.
While UTSA might be the first school we know will be joining CUSA, they likely won’t be the last.
North Texas is also expected to join CUSA in 2013. North Texas is the logical replacement for SMU, which was the lone Dallas market CUSA member. In adding North Texas, CUSA hopes to remain relevant in Dallas.
Next up, Florida International.
Florida International has long been considered a top candidate with North Texas for CUSA. With the departure of UCF, CUSA no longer has a Florida presence. FIU will now serve as the lone Florida representative.
And CUSA might not be done. Louisiana Tech as well as Charlotte are still being considered for CUSA expansion.
And now it gets tricky.
What does CUSA expansion means to any Mountain West/CUSA football alliance?
CUSA lost 4 members but was considering a full merger or alliance with the Mountain West. Most designs of an alliance called for expansion by 4 total schools, 2 in CUSA and 2 in the Mountain West. This would then give CUSA (10) members and the Mountain West (10) members. The 10 school conferences would then play a 9 came schedule to determine their champion. Via an expected waiver exception, the MWC and CUSA would likely have proposed that they be permitted to have their 10 school conference champions play each other in an Inter-Conference championship. Since almost all the other FBS conferences get to benefit with an extra game for themselves, the two conferences hoped to share in that benefit by having 1 of their conference members advance for a single extra game.
But if CUSA is at 12 schools, then it means that CUSA would have enough members for it’s own championship game, and too many for any championship type game with the Mountain West (for a conference to have a championship game, it’s members must have played all schools in it’s division…so if CUSA were a division and MWC another, there just simply aren’t enough games in a year for all CUSA members to play each other).
And then there is the UTEP issue.
Just this week, UTEP coach Mike Price stated on SiriusXM, that UTEP was moving to the MWC to play their old traditional WAC rivals that now encompass the MWC. What Price was referring to was a long thought theory that if there were a CUSA/MWC alliance or even full-merger, that it would make the most sense to have currently isolated UTEP move to the Mountain West, where it would be closer to it’s regional rivals like New Mexico.
The Mountain West would then add Utah St. as it’s #10 to join UTEP, while CUSA would free up a spot to add (3) total schools to get to (10) on their side and enable a more flexible football alliance. CUSA was expected to bring in North Texas, FIU and UTSA, but originally it seemed that for all 3 to join, UTEP would need to make the move west.
And now that doesn’t seem to the the case.
CUSA seems now set on a path to expand to 11 schools with UTSA, North Texas and Florida International. A final spot will likely go to Louisiana Tech, who have long sought CUSA membership. But that spot likely only goes to LA Tech because neither Charlotte nor Appalachian St. are prepared at this time to upgrade to FBS football.
As for the Mountain West, even if an alliance exists, it appears they will be at 10 members with only Utah St. and San Jose St. expected to join. Both a solid additions from the television negotiations standpoint, as the conference will now be able to add Salt Lake City and the Bay Area as part of their conference home.
As we’ve seen thus far with Conference USA and the Mountain West, nothing in final until the papers are signed. So there could be even more radical changes as soon as next week. Until then…