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PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2003 12:30 am 
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Has the clock started ticking on Conference USA’s final days? It may be too soon to tell, but word is filtering out that a few league programs could be preparing to abandon ship.

According to a source, four C-USA members — Charlotte, DePaul, Marquette, and Saint Louis — have recently expressed an interest in fleeing the league. Previous speculation in the media had included scenarios that would land the 49ers and Billikens in the Atlantic 10 Conference and the Blue Demons and Golden Eagles in the Big East.

It also was noted by the source that a teleconference will apparently be held Sunday, with presidents from each of the league's 15 member schools expected to be hooked up for the session. The purpose of the call was not disclosed.

C-USA members agreed over the summer that the league would remain intact through at least the 2004-05 season. Whether or not league presidents will revisit that Sunday is unknown.

The information emerges as events relating to the continuing shakeup of conference alignments appear poised to begin rapidly unfolding.

On Friday, the Hartford Courant quoted a C-USA source who characterized Louisville as "a 100 percent lock" for an invitation to join the Big East. That same source, according to the report, indicated that Cincinnati lacks adequate support among Big East schools to be assured of receiving a bid.

Cincinnati had been thought by many knowledgeable observers to be headed to the Big East with the Cardinals, but the newspaper's story alluded to the high-profile Bearcats basketball program's history of off-the-court distractions and noted that UC's desirability is diminished by its inability to generate a groundswell of fan support for its winning football program.

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese notified University of Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson in a phone call this week that the Tigers would not be a part of the Big East's expansion plans because of the school's location far from the eastern corridor.

The Courant speculated that Big East interest may be refocusing on C-USA member South Florida because of its location in the talent-rich Sunshine State, long a recruiting hotbed for Big East schools.

But geography may conspire against the Bulls, too.

Tranghese has publicly questioned the past and future wisdom of his conference extending its footprint the length of the Eastern Seaboard to Florida. If that line of thinking factors into the formula the league follows in selecting a school to accompany U of L into the fold, East Carolina could emerge as a logical choice.

ECU has fallen on hard times of late in football but that is likely to be viewed as a small blip on the long-range radar in light of the program's traditional success and the sustained support the Pirates have enjoyed in terms of fans in the seats and dollars from boosters for capital infrastructure.

While its struggling basketball program might have been considered an insurmountable barrier to ECU's inclusion in the Big East a few years ago, the school has raised its recruiting horizons, increased its talent level and boosted its home attendance figures since leaping from the Colonial Athletic Association to C-USA two years ago.

Along the way, the Pirates have spawned a formidable Williams Arena environment and sprung some notable home upsets. Most prominent were a headline-grabbing win over Louisville (2001-02) and a pair of shockers over Marquette (2001-02 and 2002-03).

A potentially interesting twist is the legitimate Eastern pedigree of Pirate hoops coach Bill Herrion, who achieved significant success at Drexel, located in Philadelphia, prior to taking the ECU job in 1999.

Herrion is well-regarded in Big East circles and has particularly close ties to Mike Jarvis, head coach of one of the Big East's linchpin basketball programs, St. John's. Herrion once served a five-year stretch as an assistant under Jarvis at Boston University and George Washington.

Other factors that could shore up a bid by ECU to join the Big East include the school's rapidly expanding enrollment, projected to reach 27,000 by 2008; a base of living alumni expected to surpass 100,000 during that same time span; and the generally positive reputation of its athletes in terms of academics and character issues.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2003 12:12 pm 
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That first article is the very first one I have ever read about C-USA being "pro-active". Sure doesn't seem like it in actuallity though. They act as if they are the conference that doesn't seem to care if it will disintigrate, rather than the WAC...

:o


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2003 3:11 pm 
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Not really sure why MAC teams would leave to join Conf USA. The MAC is a better basketball conference if Louisville, Cincinnati, bb only schools leave as projected.

This year, the MAC is clearly a better than Conf USA in football.

Maybe the MAC will cheery pick some Conf USA football schools or at least grab some of the bowl alignments.

The MAC football performance this year is one of the primary reasons I dislike the tired conference bowl tie ins. These tie ins produce the same old match ups year in and year out.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2003 5:58 pm 
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BlackGold, I stand corrected. You are absolutley correct on attendance. This is the issue that kills the MAC and is probably the direct cause for having so few bowl deals. Attendance is probably a bigger issue over TV markets, etc.

By the way, what do you think Army and Navy chances are for getting BE membership. Both of these schools have good attendance. Me thinks the Big East has a master plan (could be fooled) by taking Cincinatti and Louisville and of course Marquette and Depaul and Central Florida as football only for 9 football teams. How do you get to 12. ND+Navy+Army. Too bad Air Force is so far away.







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PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2003 6:51 pm 
Why would Marshall go to C. USA besides for more money. ??? It would be far away from everyone in th C. USA besides ECU. The C. USA should add UCF, SMU, Tulsa, and either LA. Tech or Troy St.
8-)


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2003 2:35 am 
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TAMPA - Facing the reality it could lose six members to other leagues, Conference USA is prepared to extend invitations to at least four teams from the Mid-American and Western Athletic conferences to form a 12-team, all-sports league in 2005.
UCF, Marshall, SMU, Tulsa and Rice are the leading candidates to replace Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette and DePaul, who reportedly are headed to the Big East, and Charlotte and Saint Louis, who could move to the Atlantic 10, C-USA sources said Monday.

C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky would not discuss specific teams but said his league has been contacted by ``about 10 institutions'' interested in joining C-USA.

``We have no agreements in place, but we are very focused on what contingency plans will make the conference stronger in the future,'' said Banowsky, who met with C-USA's presidents Sunday in Chicago. ``If an institution or institutions leave, we have a general feel for those scenarios.''

The loss of six members - plus Army, which announced last month it was leaving C-USA after the 2004 season - would leave C-USA with eight all-sports members - USF, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Southern Miss, TCU, Tulane and UAB.

C-USA could then turn its sights to UCF and Marshall of the MAC and SMU, Tulsa and Rice of the WAC.

``We're trying to be ready to go so there's no lag time once the Big East makes its decision,'' a C-USA source said. ``The league is very proactive on what it needs to do. We prefer a 12-team all-sports model because everyone is then dealing with apples and apples instead of apples and oranges.''

C-USA's current membership features 11 football members and four non-football members.

``It's safe to say the conference, and USF, is looking at the opportunity to be stronger regardless of what happens,'' USF Athletic Director Lee Roy Selmon said. ``We're looking at the opportunity to get better to strengthen our position as an institution.

``With the changing landscape of college athletics, this won't be the last time this sort of thing happens. Who knows, we might find ourselves in this situation again, so we have to strive to have the best program we can overall.''

USF President Judy Genshaft, who attended Sunday's meetings, did not return calls seeking comment.

C-USA consultant Chuck Neinas, the former College Football Association executive director and Big Eight Conference commissioner, said there are a myriad of details to be addressed.

``Hopefully once the Big East makes a determination, Conference USA can act with all appropriate speed,'' Neinas said. ``I'm optimistic the outcome will be positive. In certain ways, the league can be stronger. But you play the cards you're dealt, and we don't know what cards are there yet.''

Although the MAC created a national splash this past weekend with three Top 25 upsets, C-USA offers more bowl opportunities, larger television markets and a bigger revenue stream.

C-USA has five bowl tie-ins, compared to three for the WAC and two for the MAC.

C-USA has pursued SMU, UCF and Marshall before. In 1999, SMU was expected to receive an invitation with TCU, but the league didn't want to expand beyond 14 basketball members and opted for East Carolina, already a football member.

Then in August 2001, after several attempts to convince Navy to join C-USA, the league decided to invite Marshall and UCF with the thinking Army eventually would leave the league. However, before an official invitation was extended, UCF received an offer to join the MAC.

MAC spokesman Gary Richter said MAC members giving at least two years notice of leaving must pay a $200,000 fee, or $400,000 with less than two years notice.

WAC spokesman Dave Chaffin said WAC members must notify the league before Sept. 1 of their intentions to leave the following season and then forfeit their shares of the league's year-end revenues.

``Ideally we wouldn't lose any members,'' Banowsky said. ``There is no specific timetable [to replace schools], but we will move as rapidly as we can to make sure we do a thorough job.''

Although Louisville and Cincinnati are the leading candidates to leave C-USA for the Big East, support for USF is growing, the Hartford Courant reported.

Selmon, however, said USF ``has not had any contact one way or another from the Big East.''

Memphis Athletic Director R.C. Johnson said he was informed by Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese that the Tigers were no longer a candidate, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported last week.

Also last week, a Houston television station obtained a letter from WAC Commissioner Karl Benson urging his league's presidents to take advantage of C-USA's uncertain future by targeting Tulane, TCU and Houston.

However, Neinas said he felt ``relatively confident Tulane, TCU and Houston aren't going to the WAC.''


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2003 6:28 am 
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This article gives some more details about C-USA's weekend meeting: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/sfl-fbcrup24sep24,0,2538662.story?coll=sfla-sports-headlines

UCF tops expansion wish list for C-USA
By Alan Schmadtke
Orlando SEntinel
Posted September 24 2003

ORLANDO · Conference USA has made Central Florida a top option among a dozen teams under consideration for expansion, a highly placed source in C-USA said.

Athletic Director Steve Orsini confirmed contact from an athletic director in C-USA about all-sports membership beginning in 2005 -- the same year current C-USA members Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette and De Paul are expected to start play in the Big East.

Meanwhile, word of C-USA's heightened interest in the Knights has spurred the Mid-American Conference to step up an all-sports invitation for UCF.

The upshot is UCF could field unofficial offers from both leagues shortly after the Big East firms up its reconfiguration.

"That would not surprise me," Orsini said.

In addition, a new wrinkle showed up Tuesday in the Big East. The Boston Globe reported possible interest in UCF or South Florida as a football-only member of a 17-member league with nine football-playing teams.

UCF doesn't look at a football-only relationship as a long-term solution in the MAC or the Big East, but it will explore any affiliation with the Big East.

"We're intrigued," Orsini said. "We're in it for the long run. We'll look at all our options and decide what the best ones are."

C-USA presidents met Sunday in Chicago to form backup plans if four members leave for the Big East and two non-football schools (Saint Louis and Charlotte) exit to the Atlantic-10. Football-only member Army is leaving after the 2004 season.

A highly placed source in the meeting confirmed the league's interest in UCF, SMU, Tulsa, Marshall and Rice and said the league is planning for much of the conference shakeup -- including the Big East shift and C-USA's moves -- to happen within six weeks. Toledo, UTEP and Louisiana Tech were also among a dozen schools discussed, but UCF and SMU enjoy the most support, the source said.

UCF joined the MAC in football in 2001 and began playing in the league in 2002. The Knights compete in the Atlantic Sun Conference in all other sports.


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