The latest round of conference expansion continues, this time with more from Conference USA. Today it was reported, per multiple sources that C-USA is planning to reload with Charlotte and Old Dominion, on top of the previously mentioned Florida International, Texas San Antonio, North Texas, and Louisiana Tech.
The move comes in an effort to replace Houston, Memphis, SMU, and UCF who will bolt for the Big East following the 2012 season. Thus, the additions will take their place in Conference USA beginning in the 2013 season. The move will take C-USA to 14 teams, with two 7 team division.
The Western Division of Conference USA will include La Tech, North Texas, Rice, Tulane, Tulsa, UTEP, and UTSA, while the Eastern Division will include Charlotte, ECU, FIU, Marshall, ODU, Southern Miss, and UAB. While the two divisions will be set for basketball beginning in 2013, it is still unclear how soon the divisions will be set for football.
Old Dominion's football team currently competes at the FCS level, and wasn't expected to make the jump to FBS for a few years. Charlotte is barely bringing their football program into existence, and they wont take the field at any level until 2013. It was expected that the 49er's program wouldn't be ready to make a move to FBS until at least 2015. Considering this, it is probably likely that the conference will compete with 12 football members until at least the 2014 season.
The additions don't exactly do a ton to help strengthen the football side of things in Conference USA. Florida International and Louisiana Tech are both coming off 8 win seasons, and seem to have their programs on the right track, but Charlotte, UTSA, and Old Dominion still haven't played a game of FBS football.
The basketball side of things gets a whole lot more interesting. Of course, the losses of Memphis and UCF hurt, but the additions will allow the conference to remain one of the premier basketball conferences outside of the power 6. While the MWC will likely still be the best conference after those top conferences, C-USA should be right there with them.
I'm still not convinced that this is the last we've heard of conference expansion. As we knew it, the MWCUSA conference merger is dead, but the conferences will still work together with scheduling, as well as the sharing of television and marketing resources.
The Mountain West Conference will now sit at 10 members, and with C-USA at 14 you never know what can happen. I'd expect UTEP to remain in Conference USA for the time being, but there's still no doubt we fit much better in the MWC. So, maybe a few years down the line, we'll find ourselves in much the same position that we are today. Official word is expected soon, possibly as early as Friday. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.