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Chuck Landon: Hilltoppers to blow out Hurricane in C-USA

Mar. 23, 2013 @ 12:54 AM

It's always blustery in Tulsa.

But, lately, there has been an ill wind blowing from the city in Oklahoma.

It doesn't require a wind sock to determine it's coming from Tulsa University.

After speaking with several sources with knowledge of the situation at the Conference USA Tournament last week, it appears Tulsa will announce its departure from C-USA in the next week or so to join Conference TBA, aka the Big East leftovers.

Surprised?

Not exactly.

Disheartened would be a more apt description. I mean, there has been innuendo of this move for at least two months. But the longer it dragged inexorably on with no movement by Tulsa and no announcement from Conference TBA, cautious optimism began to build that, perhaps, Tulsa had seen the error of leaving.

But now?

All the wind has gone out of that hope.

As one source candidly explained, Tulsa is going to get down on its knees and crawl to a league with no name, no history and no clout.

Why?

Mainly, because Tulsa is a private school and there seems to be some sort of inexplicable umbilical cord between private schools. Since such private schools as SMU and Tulane are riding their horse with no name to this league with no name, Tulsa feels it needs to do the same.

All I can say is. ... giddy-up.

The obvious question is: Why has it taken Tulsa so long to pull the trigger?

There are two reasons, it seems.

No. 1, since Tulsa was hosting the Conference USA Tournament, school officials didn't want to announce the departure until after the tourney had been played. Granted, it would have created a rather uneasy situation, which would have detracted from the tournament.

No. 2, there was no one to pull the trigger. First, Tulsa fired its president in September after only 74 days on the job. Next, Tulsa fired athletic director Ross Parmley in December after he was named in a federal investigation involving gambling.

Tulsa hired a new athletic director, former Eastern Michigan AD Derrick Gragg, just three days ago.

That's why Tulsa is just now getting around to saying adios to Conference USA. From a football standpoint, I will be sorry to see Tulsa leave. It has been the cornerstone of C-USA football since Marshall joined the league in 2005.

It will be difficult to replace the Golden Hurricane football program.

But I'm certain Western Kentucky will do its best. And, yes, that is who will replace Tulsa. The Hilltoppers want to join Conference USA and league officials have confirmed WKU will be invited.

That means if new Western Kentucky head football coach Bobby Petrino hangs around for more than one season, Marshall will be playing against him.

From Marshall's standpoint, Tulsa leaving and Western Kentucky joining C-USA is a fortuitous move. It means a future East Division lineup of Marshall, WKU, Charlotte, Middle Tennessee State, Old Dominion, UAB, FIU and FAU.

That would give fans three opponents within driving distance compared to none in the past. In fact, it could be four if fans don't mind driving seven hours to Old Dominion.

Considering the proximity of Bowling Green, Ky.; the presence of Petrino; and the fact the Hilltoppers earned a berth in the 2013 NCAA basketball tournament, Western Kentucky looks like a very solid choice.

As for Tulsa?

It is gone with the wind.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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