The problem with Conference USA is that it was not meant to be a football conference from the beginning. In the 80s the Metro Conference which included Cincy, Louisville, South Carolina, Florida State, Va Tech, Tulane, Memphis State, and Southern Mississippi was a decent 'all sports but football league'. When the conference expansion boom came along in the late 80s the Metro tried to include football. The top football schools it the conference, FSU and USC wanted no part of it and sought better leagues. FSU to the ACC and Carolina to the SEC. The other Metro schools did not decide on football until the mid 90s and it was too their detriment. They should have stayed as they were and found two/three new football members. Instead they added new basketball schools such as Marquette, UNCC, Depaul and St Louis. They really dropped the ball with Va Tech who after having disagreements with the CUSA formation bolted to the BEast. When it became obvious that it was not possible to continue as independents they pasted together a football league which is what we have today.
Here is what they should have done. It might not have gotten them BCS membership, but they would not be in the mess they are in today.
Departed members (there was no way to keep the big two)
VA Tech (big mistake letting them go)
Who they should have gotten:
Any of the SWC leftovers: Rice, TCU, SMU, Houston
Marshall (not sure if they were 1A at the time)
ECU (very solid pick up)
Army (only if they brought all sports)
Navy (only if they brought all sports)
South Florida (will turn out to be a good pickup)
Any combination of these and you would have had a decent all sports league. This some sports in, some out is B/S. With this combo, the would have never had the problems they face today.
One man's take.
You're forgetting a member of the old Metro Conference: Georgia Tech. It's easy to overlook the 'Bees, but at one time, they also were in the Metro. They bolted for the ACC shortly before FSU did. IMO, this was the Metro's second biggest mistake. GT actually made a better Metro school than an ACC school.