I still don't think a new SWC-type conference of mostly Texas teams will happen. I don't even think that's a good idea. With Texas, A&M, Tech and Baylor now in the Big 12, these are the teams that now get the most attention in the state, even though they are in some of the smaller markets. Houston and Dallas are large metropolitan cities where local college sports isn't that important.
I think it has a lot more to do with competing head to head for local entertainment dollars with NFL teams. People in cities follow FBS football, but almost without exception you can see where NFL teams coming in has killed strong collegiate football programs nearby. Dallas is moving from 65k seat Texas stadium in Irving to the 80K JerryDome in Arlington, 11 miles closer to Ft. Worth. I live in the Metroplex and am hearing cowboys ads soliciting season ticket sales on the sports stations up here. I don't remember the cowboys doing this in the past. It will be interesting to see how this affects TCU in the next 5 years. People forget that tiny Rice drew well before the Oilers came to town.
I am not sure if you are referring to a CUSA West breakaway or a more modest Southland 3 creation. I suspect you are saying both. I think I can see both sides of the arguement. The trouble with a CUSA split is that the Texas schools would be taking a step back in football esteem before the boundary changes allowed the conference to progress beyond the current CUSA. It is possible if CUSA East choses schools wisely, they could become another MWC -type conference --- minus any academic stature. (The CUSA east 5 average 31K in attendance for football.)
That said I will defend the idea that a breakaway would help the western schools by removing long trips and bad draw games against teams no one cares about. It also allows them to recast themselves as a conference based on top academic schools. Finally, it gives them an ability to better leverage their presence in Texas. Adding UNT and UTSA's alumni bases to their viewing audience will improve their marketability in Texas. Since the breakup of the SWC no Texas schools outside of the Big12 have been in a conference setup that really worked in TV terms. Houston and Rice have both profited from playing in the same conference again. Prior to that they were only segmenting their share of the houston market. There is no reason to assume that UNT and SMU could not have a similar benefit on each other. Texas has an enormous population. Each school owns a sliver. UT, A&M, and Tech are the only schools who own large chunks of the audience and they are all in the same conference. I think the biggest problem with other conferences that have pulled in Texas schools is they pull in one tiny localized sliver of fan base far away form their core. If you want to make money, it will require a number of Texas Schools sewing their slivers together into a coherent tight presence in Texas. For CUSA that means expansion in Texas.
Regarding my proposed southland breakaway, it is better than potentially not having a home or staying in the southland--- imo two very likely options. Remember that UT is the furthest south member of the the B12 or CUSA. There are a LOT of people south of there who might be UTSA or Texas State fans if those schools played at a level city dwellers followed. City people follow FBS. I tend to suggest more Texas schools (UTPA, HBU, TAMU-CC, UTA) than most can stomach because I agree with you that just UTSA, SHSU, Lamar, and Texas State is not going to be enough to really get the attention of Texas. If they went with those 4 schools and 4 out of state schools, I think they would have a hard time getting Texans to care and the TV revenue won't be there. They'll be another sunbelt. I think they'd have the same problem CUSA has had. They would just have too little market saturation.
In many ways it is similar to the problems the CFL has (IMO). In markets where they have a team for 1 Million people, the CFL is very popular and successful (sask, winnipeg, edmonton, calgary); In Markets where they are underrepresented and there is insufficient market penetration, the league is downgraded to a curiosity and support fluctuates wildly (specifically Toronto and Montreal).
Texas is a great collection of Markets, but IMO to properly mine them, a conference needs to dominate Texas first. The Big 12 does that with UT, A&M, Tech, and Baylor. Those schools have about 150K students enrolled. They probably have an combined alumni base over 750K. Add in families and you can start to see how they dominate TV. Having a toehold in a texas market hasn't worked for any conference.
UTSA is still a young school with little sports history, so any jump to a bigger conference would be only because of their potential and the hope they deliver the San Antonio market. I don't think UH and Rice has delivered much of the Houston market to CUSA, or has SMU delivered much of the Dallas market, and they have a lot of history in the state.
IMO , The addition of Rice to CUSA has been a very successful for both UH and Rice. UH appears less incompetent in levaraging their student body, which helps them to better leverage theri student body. Rice seems less of a marginal program and their limited number of supporters have more of a reason to see their team play each week against familiar opposition. Remember they have only been in the same conference again for a couple of year now. Both programs appear on the upswing over that decision and some smart stadium moves by their administrations that reflect the reality of operating in an NFL killzone --- and very close to the Reliant to boot.
Texas State may be in the Austin market, but UT owns that market, and always will. And as the Austin area grows, so does the entertainment options (and there are lots of options here). San Marcos is about a 30 minute drive from south Austin. From north Austin, there's a lot of traffic to fight and it can easily take 1 hour plus to get to San Marcus. It's even a longer drive from San Antonio.
I am not suggesting that Texas State will challenge UT for Austin's support. I do think that it is not unreasonable to see people on the edges of (and into the cities of) Austin and San Antonio making an hour drive to see Texas State play at the FBS level. While UT is certainly #1 by a long way, there are a lot of people in Austin who aren't UT fans and a lot of Texas State Alumni.
I do agree that North Austin Traffic is among the worst in the state, though. I can totally understand N. Austinites staying home.
Lamar has been D1 longer than both those schools, and they would have the area all to themselves. But they are located in a smaller market (DMA is 141 out of 210), but population is large enough to get big crowds in football if they win. Lamar still suffers from a lack of respect academically, and with the money problems they suffered through in the 1990s plus some bad decisions, they have put themselves in a position where they have to play catch-up. IMHO, they are about 5 years away from being able to go FBS. At that point they should be done with their $100 million capital campaign (they are half way there now), and enrollment will probably be over 15K. They should also be finished with their $30 milion plus of athletic facility improvements by then too.
Totally agree. I think Lamar is the rare 10/11K school that is making the right decision to move to FBS.