The Sun Belt's hesitation about inviting Texas St had to do with it bad stadium, low attendance and reputation as a commuter school, much of which has been fixed or is improving, in addition the Sun Belt had a nice 10/12 split with Denver and UALR so just adding 1 school didn't make a ton of sense. Now that Denver is gone they want an 11th fb team and has said so publicly, obviously a 12th would be coming soon for the extra CCG money which they really need. And now that the WAC has tried to poach a couple of schools and CUSA has started looking their way I think grabbing to Texas schools would be in their best interest. They could always take UNCC and App St as fb onlys and go to 16 and take them in all sports after CUSA poaches a school or two...
I like much of this.
I do think that while a number of schools have been thrown around regarding CUSA replacements (as they will lose 3 schools), I do think the CUSA and MWC plans will start everything.
For instance, there is one scenario to consider: what if CUSA loses 3, MWC loses 3 (Boise St, AF, SDSU)...then CUSA is at 9, MWC at 7.
So you'd have some thinking to do if you are both conferences:
* Plan A: stick to the norm...CUSA adds 0-3 replacements, MWC adds 2-5 schools from a non-CUSA conference...as they'd need at least 8 all-sports members (Hawaii doesn't count).
* Plan B: is the "shake it up" scenario. If you have 9 in CUSA and 7 in MWC, and are planning a football-only merge, it might be worth exploring an all-sports merge. You'd have 16 schools, which is in no way a problem given the changing landscape with an SEC 14, ACC 14, almost had a Pac-16, Big East with 17 for non-football sports.
Then it's as simple as putting UTEP in the west division for an 8-8 split:
East: ECU, MArshall, UAB, USM, Memphis, Rice, Tulane, Tulsa
West: UTEP, UNM, Colorado St., Wyoming, UNLV, Nevada, Fresno St., *Hawaii
So for non-football, you'd have 15 in a single division like many 12+ school conferences do/did, and two 8 school divisions for football.
The basketball TV contract would likely be improved as well with coverage in all time zones.
This isn't the SEC, ACC, Pac-12...it's clearly a 2nd tier all-sports conference. But it is an all-sports conference covering the entire nation. So there is more appeal as a basketball conference than say, just MWC alone or CUSA alone.
Now on the other side of plans, there are some near locks.
If a CUSA/MWC merge for all sports (might as well keep the Conference "USA" name) is off the table, MWC will need schools fast. CUSA might as well.
CUSA would certainly put No. Texas high on the list to re-add the Dallas market. If they want an eastern push, Temple is an option too with ECU and Marshall nearby. UTSA is an option as well, despite being a newcomer, since it will be the lone FBS school in the San Antonio market.
And for the MWC, there aren't many options if due to the FB merger, CUSA schools are off the table. It means Utah St. and SJSU to get to 9. And that's about it. After that, we're talking a big step down with Idaho of into Texas with the FBS upgrades. I think if this were the case, you might even see the MWC have interest in Montana from the FCS. I mean, what is better: an FCS upgrade in Texas...so far from the footprint and not nearly a TCU level program...of someone you know in the footprint like Montana?
As for the Southland, if CUSA/MWC merge, the Southland is pretty safe. Because it would mean the WAC would be safe. But if CUSA and MWC don't merge for all-sports, it means MWC needs to add WAC schools. Which means the WAC will have to go out of it's way to find FCS upgrades and would likely sweeten the deals for Lamar and SHSU...simple because the wAC would NEED not WANT schools for football.