Conference USA is ‘hanging by a thread’ as the league frantically tries to stay alive during re-alignment
Concerns have been raised that the future viability of Conference USA is “hanging by a thread” as the restructuring of the College Football Council continues, sources told CBS Sports. The issue is the impending defection of the three conference USA schools on the Sun Belt. The Southern Miss accepted the Sun Belt invitation on Friday, while Marshall and Old Dominion have not yet made a formal decision. Those schools, including FCS Power James Madison, are expected to be invited to join the Sun Belt as early as next week.
If Marshall and Old Dominion join the Southern Miss as they depart, Conference USA will be reduced to eight to five members, leaving the league in serious crisis. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament requires at least six council members to determine the league champions in order to achieve automatic berths.
CBS Sports had earlier reported that the James Madison Conference is choosing between the USA and the Sun Belt, a decision that will definitely determine the future of Old Dominion and Marshall.
Conference USA lost six of its 14 members on Thursday when Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA announced they were joining the American Athletic Conference. It is believed that they will start playing in the AAC during the athletic season of 2023-24.
If Conference USA loses the above three events and eventually dissolves, the result is that the number of FBS conferences will be reduced from 10 to nine. It could have a potential impact on ongoing discussions regarding college football playoff expansion. As proposed, the top six ranked conference champions will get an automatic berth in a fictional 12-team bracket, but this is based on the 10 existing leagues that are underway.
The 26-year-old league could be the first FBS conference since the Big East in 2013 in which the football remnants of the old Big East finally served as the foundation of the AAC. Before that, the last FBS – then Division I-A – conference was the Southwest Conference in 1995.
A decision could be made in the next three days, sources told CBS Sports. Thus, Conference USA is likely to lose nine of its 14 members in one week. At that point, the league’s future will be determined by the merits of the media rights holders. If the collection of teams in the newly formed C-USA does not take enough interest from the networks, it may go away completely. The C-USA television agreement with CBS will expire after the 2022-23 academic year, and the conference has separate deals with the stadium and ESPN (mostly streaming on ESPN +).
“To say [conference USA] is not injured would be to deny [reality],” a source close to the discussion told CBS Sports.
The thing that works on behalf of Conference USA is the $ 4 million exit fee. If nine schools eventually drop out, $ 36 million will be added to the coffers to help attract new members. C-USA Commissioner Judy McLeod is desperately trying to keep her existing members together while reaching out to candidates to change the exit program, several sources told CBS Sports.
“We have strong members and are working to strengthen our league as we move forward. Both FBS and FCS have a number of organizations interested in joining Conference USA, some of which we have already met. Personally,” McLeod said in a statement Friday afternoon. Is. “Every step we take will be deliberate, strategically appropriate and purposeful. We will take the necessary time to add future members who will be the best from an athletic and academic point of view and give potential organizations time to complete their process.
“We believe in a regional concept and will try to incorporate it into our design and schedule. There are of course a lot of questions, but a lot is happening behind the scenes. We will release more information when appropriate. Let’s continue. “
Conference USA and Mackenzie State of Southland Conference and WAC’s Sam Houston have been in contact, sources told CBS Sports. Like James Madison, those FCS schools will need an NCAA-mandated multi-year transition process to get to FBS.
“She’s getting calls from every ambitious FCS event,” said one of those school sources.
The priority for Conference USA is to connect FBS members with independent schools such as New Mexico State, UConn and UMass. The independent Liberty Conference USA or Sun Belt previously reported by CBS Sports is together for membership. Looking at last week’s developments, Liberty will prefer the Sun Belt this time around as the school evaluates its options.