As we all know, the University of Memphis officially announced today that they will be joining the Big East conference in all sports beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. This news sent shock waves throughout Conference USA, and even into the Mountain West Conference. The two conferences had already agreed to merge for football only, while kicking around the idea of bringing all sports together.
While it may have just been an idea previously, the loss of a 4th school for C-USA, may send these merger talks into overdrive.Currently, the two conferences have a combined 15 members (2013) in all sports, and a 16th (Hawaii) for football. The question now becomes: where do we go from here? If the merger is to go through, further expansion is almost necessary to ensure that everything works out geographically. Here is a full list of the members that will still be a part of the two conference come 2013.
|Conference USA Members 2013||Mountain West Conference Members 2013|
|East Carolina||Air Force|
|Southern Miss||Hawaii (Football Only)|
Initial "talks" had UTEP moving West to rejoin its old WAC foes, while all other current C-USA members would stay East to form two 8 team leagues, with a 17th football member. However, if UTEP were to move West now, a spot would almost certainly have to be filled on the East.
Temple is the first name that comes to mind. The Owls have had major success as a basketball program over the last number of years, and they have also built their football program up to enjoy some solid seasons over the last few years. Geographically, Temple isn't a perfect fit, but its good enough.
The school was a part of the Big East from 1991-2004, but was shunned in the 2005 expansion because of poor attendance numbers, and a "lack of commitment" to their football program. Many had rumored that Temple would be another addition to the Big East, but as most reports are saying, the Big East has completed its expansion.
So, from there it becomes a matter of want. One would have to assume that Conference USA would love to add Temple to their conference, but would Temple actually want to join C-USA? Here's my opinion: A conference that still had football powers like Houston, UCF, and SMU (if we can call them a power), and basketball powers in Memphis and UCF would likely by an enticing place for Temple. But, without those schools, C-USA just doesn't offer the same appeal.
Temple currently competes in the Alantic-10 in basketball and other sports, and the Mid-American Conference in football. A merged C-USA/MWC would likely be a "better' football conference than the MAC, but the Owls fit right in geographically with the rest of those schools. Also, minus Memphis, UCF, and San Diego St., I don't think there's any question that the A-10 would be a better basketball conference than the C-USA/MWC. All in all, its highly unlikely that Conference USA can lure Temple over.
Moving on. The next possible candidates will likely come from either the Sun Belt or the WAC. In my opinion, either La Tech or Florida International make the most sense. La Tech is probably the better fit geographically, but FIU would allow the conferences to get back into the Florida TV market. While neither of those schools have particularly great basketball programs, they have both experienced some success in football. This past season, both schools finished 8-5, with both losing in a bowl game.
Other potential additions to the conference include Utah St., San Jose St., Florida Atlantic, North Texas, and UTSA. Utah St., who has had some success in both football and basketball, would probably be the most appealing of these candidates, as they would allow the conferences to get back into the Utah television market. However, for any Western school to be added, one would need to be added to the East to ensure the symmetry of the league.
Officials from both the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA will be meeting later this week to discuss the issues at hand. Remember that as of this moment, the merger has only been agreed upon for football. You would think the conferences would move ahead with a full on merger of all sports, but nothing is guaranteed. Many details still need to be ironed out as well. Both these conferences have long term TV deals that need to be worked out, the MWC would need to figure out what to do with the MTN Network, expansion issues will be discussed, as well as the specifics of league.
It's about that time that the leaders of our conferences stop sitting back and "waiting for the dominoes to fall". Its time to be proactive, and do their job by ensuring the longevity of our leagues. Granted, no matter what happens between the MWC and C-USA, we were highly unlikely to keep the schools that have departed. Still though, as the dust begins to settle, we're sitting here with our hands on our heads and our tails between our legs. Enough of that. It's time to move on and move forward into a better future with the institutions that remain.
Here's a look at what the potential merger could look like:
|Potential Conference USA/Mountain West Meger|
|Air Force||East Carolina|
|Hawaii (Football Only)||Southern Miss|