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Chuck Landon: Conference realignments fireworks or dud?

Jul. 02, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Fireworks or dud?

That's always a key question during the explosive Fourth of July week.

But it's even more pertinent this year because it's also the week the conference reconfiguration is official. That's right, Conference USA, the ACC, new American Athletic Conference, old Big East, Mountain West and Sun Belt all had membership changes this week.

So, which leagues' moves set off fireworks and which were duds?

Let's take a look.

C-USA: The league says good-bye to UCF, Memphis, SMU and Houston. The onslaught will continue this time next year with East Carolina, Tulsa and Tulane also leaving.

Replacing the first quartet this week are Middle Tennessee State, FIU, Louisiana Tech, FAU, North Texas and UT-San Antonio. Old Dominion and Charlotte also are joining in every sport except football, which will follow in 2014 and '15, respectively. Western Kentucky joins in 2014.

So, fireworks or dud?

The moves aren't "Dawg Dazzle" quality, but they are better than the fireworks we let off in our backyards. And they certainly aren't duds.

The emphasis was on growth and television markets. FIU (48,000 students), North Texas (36,305) UT-San Antonio (30,474), FAU (30,000), Charlotte (26,232) and Old Dominion (24,753) are up and coming schools with growing enrollments. Among the departing members, only UCF (59,490), Houston (40,747) and East Carolina (26,900) had larger enrollments.

As for television markets, six of the eight largest markets in C-USA will belong to first-year members.

Besides, although conference reconfiguration was football-driven, the updated Conference USA will be stronger in basketball than the old version.

Overall, C-USA leadership did as well as reasonably could be expected. That's worthy of at least Camden Park-quality fireworks.

AAC: Even the acronym sounds like someone gagging. Everyone that mattered has bailed, including Syracuse, Pittsburgh, the Catholic Seven basketball schools, Louisville and Rutgers (2014), while TCU, Boise State and San Diego State became no-shows.

Cincinnati and South Florida were left without chairs when the music stopped. And, trust me, the music definitely has stopped. This is just the old C-USA with a lot worse name.

Don't bother covering your ears, this is a dud.

Big East: It is back to being what it was invented as -- a basketball league. And a very good one. Particularly with Xavier, Butler and Creighton coming aboard.

Keeping the original name alone is worth fireworks.

ACC: This league was the clear-cut biggest winner, snaring Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame (everything but football) and Louisville while losing only Maryland. But, perhaps, the greatest coup was getting the membership to sign a Grant of Rights media deal that solidifies the league.

This was a Washington, D.C., level of fireworks.

Sun Belt: It was victimized by trickle down. The AAC raided C-USA and, then, C-USA raided the Sun Belt. There's not much left but Arkansas State.

It's a dud.

Mountain West: Keeping Boise State and San Diego State, while adding Utah State and San Jose State were great moves. Light the fireworks because MWC is now the best of the non-power conferences, ahead of C-USA, the AAC and the Mid-American.

So, there's my conference reconfiguration analysis based on pyrotechnics.

Somebody pass me a bottle rocket.

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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