Friday, March 20, 2015

Where Will UAB Go When Conference USA Kicks Them Out

UAB has been one of the talks of the NCAA Tournament with their stunning defeat of Iowa State in the Round of 64.  It is a good story for a school that needs some good feelings from their sports programs.

See, it was over three months ago that UAB announced that it was scrapping their football program.  Gone.  Kaput.  A controversial decision, for sure, and one that will have big consequences on their other programs.  Namely, this Blazers basketball team.

See, the C-USA wants their members to have football teams and UAB won't.  Conventional wisdom says that UAB must leave the conference and find a new league to play in.  But that isn't very easy.  See, this could be a giant fall for the Blazers if they don't watch it.  While the C-USA isn't a super conference, it is on the level just below the major conferences.

Let's assume for this argument that no other major football conference will let them join as a non-football member.  So no jumping to the American Athletic Conference or something.  So where could they go?

1-ATLANTIC 10:  This is an ideal fit for UAB ... but not one for the A-10.  Birmingham is far outside their geographic footprint (Saint Louis would be the nearest school) and adding UAB really wouldn't benefit any bottom line.  Sure, UAB's program is better than several current A-10 members, it just wouldn't work from the A-10's perspective.

2-COLONIAL:  This one is very interesting.  A few years ago, the CAA was on par with the Atlantic 10 as one of the better mid-major leagues.  However, the CAA has lost a few of its upscale members and a few left for the A-10.  They've replaced them with schools like College of Charleston and Elon.  UAB would be a big get for them and UAB could do worse than this league.  While it still isn't in the area, Birmingham isn't that far away from schools like Charleston, Elon or UNC Wilmington.  The league currently has 10 members so an 11th wouldn't kill them.  This could be the best partnership.

3-SOUTHERN:  This has also been buzzed about.  The SoCon, like the Colonial, isn't as nice as it used to be.  The SoCon lost Davidson, Appalachian State, Elon and Charleston and could use UAB in their ranks.  The Blazers would have a natural rival (Samford) and the league is in the southeast only.  This could really work.

4-SUN BELT:  This one is interesting.  The Sun Belt is a football conference but it does have non-football members.  They've really been raided during the recent conference movement.  Would they be interested in adding UAB?  Maybe.  They'd be right smack dab in the middle of the league geographically with two in-state rivals already built in (Troy, South Alabama).

5-ATLANTIC SUN:  The A-Sun has just eight members and would love to add a school like UAB.  To me, this would be a good option for UAB only if they cannot get in to any of the above leagues.  No offense to the A-Sun, but this is a huge drop for the Blazers.  Most of the schools in this league are relatively new to Division I hoops.


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