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Conference USA Expansion Scenarios

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With UAB's football program gone, the conference will be looking for a replacement team. Who could it be?

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Alabama Birmingham was forced to disband their football program effective immediately. While we may never know the true intentions behind the actions of the Alabama Board of Dictators, we will be required to live with the consequences of them. Regardless of UAB staying or being forced out of the C-USA, the league will still need to add at minimum one more football team to restore the balance, and equality within the league.

We'll just assume that C-USA enforces their own rules and cruelly kicks UAB to the curb.

What's next? Do we add or who else do we evict? (I'm looking at you Florida schools)

There are a couple of ways the conference could go about expansion.

Easy Logical Move

Without too much thinking involved one can easily look at the Sun Belt and just choose one of their best teams.

Sun Belt Standings

TEAM CONF OVERALL
* - Georgia Southern 8-0 9-3
* - Louisiana-Lafayette 7-1 8-4
* - Appalachian State 6-2 7-5
* - South Alabama 5-3 6-6
* - Arkansas State 5-3 7-5
* - Texas State 5-3 7-5

There you go pick one out....who do you guys like?

The top two picks should be between Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Ragin Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette have won 35 games in the last four years and will attempt to win their fourth straight New Orleans Bowl on Dec 20. They have a respectable football team that also happens to own a loud home crowd. They would easily finish in the top four of attendance year in and year out.

Lafayette also fits perfectly geographically speaking in the West division. Apart from the long trip to El Paso, (which everyone has to do) Lafayette is centrally located with an average of just 283 miles away from the other five members. A relaxed driving distance between the schools can start to create some heated regional rivalries in the west division.

Arkansas State is option 1b but from reading their message boards, the common attitude of Red Wolves nation is to stay put in the Sun Belt. Likewise to Lafayette's recent history, they have won 35 games in the last four years, they have four consecutive bowl appearances and will be gunning for the third bowl win in the GoDaddy Bowl on January 4th 2015.  They would also fill in very nicely in the West division and Jonesboro is close to old Sun Belt rivals Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. They draw about 25,000 per home game which would place them in the top four of conference attendance.

University of South Alabama is like a replica of UAB. If the conference wants to position itself as the top of G5 we need to replace UAB with a better team, not an equal.

Georgia Southern has a beautiful FBS record and a remarkable history in the FCS world where they won six national championships. Who knows they could potentially become the next Boise State.

Location is the main argument against them. Statesboro, Georgia doesn't exactly scream out sexy TV market. Yes I know Southern can outdraw State in its own stadium but executives don't look at it like that. Throw in the fact that GSU fits in more with the eastern teams and we are left with one important question.

Which eastern team is going west? I guarantee you somebody will be pissed off......

The same reasoning can be applied to Appalachian State.

The Texas State Bobcats are the dark horse in the race.

The rivalry with UTSA already exists and it wouldn't take long for the other Texas schools to catch on. The Miner Alumni in Central Texas would be ecstatic to have another "home" game in their region. I don't know if the conference is eager to add a fifth Texas team when they have the option to add a different, untapped C-USA market.

FCS Route

If Banowsky want his league to be known as the "up and coming we want to get snubbed for the Access Bowl every year" he has a variety of teams to cherry-pick from.

In my humble opinion this is an awful way to go.

I understand Old Dominion and Charlotte from the TV perspective but anymore FCS teams and we will continue to decrease whatever prestige the conference has left.

The most popular options being mentioned are:

  • Liberty University
  • James Madison University
  • Richmond

The three teams are eastern based so once again somebody will have to move and play out of their comfort zone.

The Bold Power Move

What if we stopped playing nice and made some aggressive moves to climb up the G5 ladder? I'm not talking about giving Boise State a call or pleading former C-USA members to return home. While that sounds nice, we all know it's a fantasy if the American Athletic couldn't pull Boise State, we don't stand a chance.

So then what can we do to improve our position?

We have to look no further than the 2014 Boca Raton Bowl.

The team lined up opposite of Marshall, yes the Northern Illinois Huskies.

Under normal conditions it would be extremely tough to entice NIU away from the MACtion. Although as gossip has it, things are not perfect in MAC paradise.

Adam Rosenfield of Underdog Dynasty wrote this in his article regarding expansion.

"Northern Illinois Rumors are the Huskies are quite unhappy with the MAC, and might be looking to leave. "

NIU needs no formal introduction, they are the powerhouse of the MAC averaging almost 12 wins a season in the last four years. They have won three of the last four MAC titles and will be making their seven consecutive bowl appearance.

NIU is located in DeKalb about 60 miles west of Chicago so once again we would have that one unfortunate team moving to the west or would we?

Realistically is there much of a difference between C-USA and the MAC?  Right now there is not much, one could debate either way.

A couple of courageous moves and the tide can turn in our favor.

Instead of asking the Huskies to make a lateral move why don't we make our conference more attractive so that they can't refuse the offer?

Add the best team from the MAC along with the two leading teams from the Sun Belt and supplement them with the good teams from C-USA and you have yourself a strong looking conference.

Send invitations to Northern Illinois, Louisiana Lafayette and Arkansas State.

The divisions would easily form themselves with Northern Illinois going east, and Louisiana and Arkansas staying west. No shuffling, no inconveniences just two divisions with close geographical schools.

Granted, from year-to-year teams will bounce around in the standings, but here is a general idea of how the conference would have finished this year.

West East
Louisiana-Lafayette 8-4 Marshall 12-1
Louisiana Tech 8-5 Northern Illinois 11-2
Rice 7-5 Western Kentucky 7-5
UTEP 7-5 Middle Tennessee 6-6
Arkansas St 7-5 Old Dominion 6-6
UTSA 4-8 Charlotte* 5-6
North Texas 4-8 FIU 4-8
Southern Miss 3-9 FAU 3-9

The addition of these three teams would greatly boost C-USA's football reputation. They have combined for 116 wins in the last four years to go along with twelve bowl invitations.

It was obvious that Marshall would get slighted by a two loss Boise State team even if they had finished undefeated. We need to fix this by taking advantage of this unexpected expansion. By making sure the teams we add enhance the image of the conference and we are not viewed as inferior to the MWC and AAC.

Stay tuned for part 2 where will discuss how the Big 12 missing out on the College Football Playoffs could directly affect UTEP.