What have you heard about SMU? Are they really pushing to return to the big leagues again? If there's a real chance they'll start winning, then yeah, SMU would definitely be great for C-USA. There's tons of money, fan support, and ultimately national appeal there if they win again. There's no doubt that a few winning season would bring in a very large market share in Texas. The TCU SMU match-up would be really interesting.
I think UCF may be a bit like the Atlanta falcons. Prove to the fans that you will win and put a good product on the field with some appealing match-ups, and "they will come." But as soon as they start losing, no one will show up. The fan interest in Orlando would definitely be fickle, but that part of Florida is football crazy, and Floridians as well as new arrivals from the midwest will probably tune in if the local team starts playing and beating some name teams. I appreciate the competitiveness and physicality of MAC football, but half of the league is being kept afloat by support from the Big 10 schools. If they don't even draw a crowd in the midwest, NO ONE will come to see them down here. C-USA would be a huge step up (however ingracious UCF might be to the MAC by leaving).
I do agree that if UCF doesn't materialize as a solid football program, they'd be a total dud.
I think C-USA has to consider the wisdom of going purely for major markets. C-USA badly leads schools that will draw national interest. Right now Marshall is the only potential member that might lure a fan not otherwise interested in C-USA to tune in. Marshall is also a large tv draw regionally, though admittedly that doesn't deliver a major single tv market. I think C-USA, at least in terms of football, needs to seriously debate the wisdom of adding major market teams that, well, stink. Is Temple really gonna deliver the Philly market? In basketball, maybe, but who in Philly wants to watch the Owls get pounded by So Miss or ECU? Adding Marshall would be a lot like adding Va Tech. Outstanding fan support, a name team, good tv numbers regionally, and success on the football field. I don't think C-USA will ever take a step up without making it's match-ups more appealing and investing in programs that may reach BCS caliber.
I like the southern metro idea. If the conference splits along basketball/football lines it'd make more sense. It'd probably be better to cater to the southern football fan-base as well to develop some heated rivalries. C-USA is a tough sell on the the southern football fans with outlier teams like Cincinnati.
Does USF have enough clout to keep UCF out? It's interesting that Miami is pretty friendly with UCF, but USF isn't. Maybe they think there's only room for one more big time Florida team?
Sooner or later, the ACC football/basketball division will become a serious problem. If UVA or Maryland ever slip in to the FSU/Clemson/Ga Tech camp, the conference might slip. I think Maryland in particular would be a great fit in the BE.