Sunday, November 30, 2014

If UAB Folds Football Program, Where Will Conference USA Look To Next?

UAB may shut down their football program this week.

There are reports out there that the University of Alabama-Birmingham will be shutting down their football program.  That is a rather shocking bit of news since everyone seems to believe college football is such a cash cow no matter who the school is.  It is sad news for the students at UAB, their players, coaches and fans.

So what will become of UAB's membership in Conference USA?

Word is that Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said that the other schools in Conference USA won't support having UAB as a member if they don't have a football program.  That means that UAB, if it drops the sport, will have to find a new conference to join and C-USA will have an opening to fill very quickly.

Conference USA, in it's hierarchy at the college football table, will most likely look to poach from the Sun Belt Conference.  The league will have 14 schools for football next season but played this season with 13 members (Charlotte will make the jump from the FCS).  They could just stick with that.  If they didn't, the Sun Belt would most likely be where they'd look.

South Alabama or Troy could be a nice fit if the conference wants to get an Alabama school back.  Georgia State, Texas State, Arkansas State or either Louisiana-Lafayette or Louisiana-Monroe could also be candidates.  All of those schools have their own merits.  Arkansas State has been one of the better Sun Belt programs over the past several years.  Texas State would bring in a fifth school from that state.  Appalachian State could also be a nice addition.  Georgia Southern has historically been a solid program.  Again, these would be the most likely candidates if the C-USA wants to make a quick move.

If C-USA wants to look at the FCS for another school, James Madison and Liberty could be targets.  James Madison passed on an offer to join the Sun Belt Conference while Liberty has made it known that they want to get in the FBS.  Like Old Dominion and Charlotte before them, a FCS school might need a little longer notice to work their way up, though it wouldn't be impossible to do it on the quick.

To me, I'd go after either Georgia Southern or Arkansas State.  Both are solid programs who play in states that Conference USA isn't in right now.  Georgia Southern, geographically, would link the five Appalachian state schools with the two Florida schools in the East Division.  Arkansas State would fit geographically as the 7th team in the West Division.  In a conference like this, travel costs do matter.

Just ask UAB.

Now where would UAB go?  They have no backup plan for this, so they'll have a free agency period of sorts.  With the latest major conference realignment, it has become obvious that football and non-football schools don't mix.  So once you take out all the football conferences, what is left?

The Big East isn't an option since they don't fit with the Catholic nature of the league.  The Atlantic 10 may not be an option since the A10 already has 14 members and none anywhere near Birmingham.  Same sort of geographical issues keep them from the Colonial or Missouri Valley.  A smaller conference like the Southern, Summit, Big South, A-Sun, SWAC or Ohio Valley may be beneath them.  It may be all they can get.

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