Well well well. Aren't we in an interesting conundrum?
Defying all odds (well, maybe not, because they were the #4 seed and hosted the tournament), the Conference USA representative in the NCAA tournament this year was the UAB Blazers, and good for them. Not only do they have a likable coach, a young & talented roster, and were the only team to firmly handle Louisiana Tech in the regular season.
The young and bright eyed Blazers dominated MTSU from about 15 minutes remaining in the opening half until the end of the C-USA title game - sure, they fed off the crowd, but they also rode some momentum. After close victories over the Tophillers and LA Tech they are now celebrating their first conference tournament championship since 1987.
But, the underlying story of all of this is not only the loss of UAB's football program, but the possibility off Conference USA losing the Blazers. Now, if what I heard in Birmingham is true, UAB wont have to worry about a conference search until next year, as the conference's Athletic Directors and rest of the powers that be seem willing to allow them one more year as a member, but in terms of long term stability, C-USA might not be the future for Blazers athletics. And what a bummer.
If you share my train of thought, you're in the camp of people who think the conference should do everything in their power to try and keep the Blazers around. After all, they helped establish the conference 20 years ago, and how they're just going to be kicked to the curbside because the university's president, without any warning or premeditation, cut the team?
If you're looking for a loophole in the C-USA bylaws, good luck. According to the 2011-2012 bylaws (when the conference was comprised of ECU, Houston, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, SMU, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UCF and UTEP), rule 3.01 of Article III (aptly named "eligibility") states:
Colleges and universities described in Section 170 (b) (1) (A) (ii) of the Code that are located within the United States of America and are classified as a NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, shall be eligible to be members of the Conference.
Okay, fair enough. Well, in case you missed it the first time around, rule 3.02 (aptly named "members") , states that "Colleges and universities meeting the requirements of Section 3.01 may apply for membership in the Conference."Ahhhhhh. Did I find a loophole?! The beginning sentence of 3.02 says "Admission of Additional Members," meaning that if a new school (like WKU, Old Dominion and Charlotte this past year) want to enter the conference, they have to be FBS. So there's something...
Well, at least, there was something. There are two pretty damning conditions here for UAB. First off, in 3.05 ("Member Covenants"), it' states that:
(d) Its President/Chancellor, which, for purposes of these Bylaws, shall be defined as the "Chief Executive Officer" of the member institution, at all times will bear ultimate responsibility for and final authority over the conduct of its intercollegiate athletic programs.
Yeah, this hurts. After all, it was Ray Watts who ultimately pulled the plug (along with the Alabama Board of Trustees), and as UAB President, he is the "Chief Executive Officer." This isn't good.
Neither is this, in 3.07 ("Suspension and Expulsion"), article b:
(b) Violates any of the provisions of these Bylaws or the rules and regulations of the Conference (collectively referred to as "Conference Legislation") or the NCAA
Again, referring to rule 3.01.
Alright, so it's all damning. UAB doesn't have a chance, right? Well...
In this piece on AL.com by John Talty, he explores, specifically, the interesting choice that ODU athletic director Dr. Camden Wood Selig (former WKU AD - Go Tops) has in helping keep UAB in the conference after the Blazers were the biggest proponent of the Monarchs entering the league. After you bear through the 700+ words here, I suggest giving it a read.
Long story short - UAB wants to stay (obviously), but other AD's have their concerns. Again, going back to what I heard in Birmingham, a lot of AD's and presidents don't like how the whole situation was handled.
While I'm a huge proponent of UAB staying in the conference, the best news I have for those who want them to stay is it looks like they'll stay at least until the end of the next year.
Are you a proponent for the Blazers staying put? Who would you want if UAB is kicked to the curb? Let me know either on twitter (@FletchTopper) or in a comment below!