Chuck Landon: C-USA is confusing with new members
Conference USA never intended to have 14 members for the 2013-14 football and basketball seasons.
But, now, it appears likely.
Apparently, the Sun Belt Conference is going to allow Middle Tennessee State and Florida Atlantic to leave one year early and join C-USA in time for next football season.
Since East Carolina and Tulane aren't going to join the Big East until 2014-15, that creates significant scheduling ramifications in C-USA for the 2013 football season.
Until Middle Tennessee State and FAU dropped their surprising bombshell, C-USA's divisions and schedules were tentatively set.
New members Florida International and Louisiana Tech were slated to compete in the East Division, while UT-San Antonio and North Texas were penciled in as West Division members. Despite the geography, Louisiana Tech was going to compete in the East until Old Dominion and Charlotte join C-USA in 2015 as East Division members.
But all that changes now.
Since MTSU and FAU are both East Divisions schools, Louisiana Tech will be able to play in the West where it belongs.
So, next season the East Division members will be Marshall, East Carolina, Southern Miss, UAB, FIU, FAU and Middle Tennessee State. The West will include Tulsa, UTEP, Rice, Tulane, UT-San Antonio, Louisiana Tech and North Texas.
The problem is the 2013 schedules.
According to Marshall sources, the Herd was going to play non-conference home games against an NCAA I-AA school (probably Gardner-Webb) and Miami (Ohio), along with conference home contests against East Carolina, UAB, Southern Miss and North Texas.
Marshall's away games were going to be non-conference games at Ohio and Virginia Tech and, then, C-USA road games at FIU, Louisiana Tech, Tulane and UTEP.
But, now, that isn't possible.
Besides the changing membership, the sheer number of schools increasing from 12 to 14 creates scheduling changes. That's because the philosophy was to play five divisional games and three cross-over games against schools from the other division.
That thinking is gone now, too.
With 14 members, the number of divisional games increases from five to six. So, every C-USA school either must cancel one non-conference game or the league has to decrease the cross-over games from three to two.
The latter is the likely scenario.
For Marshall, that probably means either not playing Tulane in New Orleans or UTEP in El Paso. Since Tulane won't be a member of C-USA in 2014 and won't be returning the game in Huntington, that is the cross-over game most likely to be scrubbed.
So, this is how Marshall's 2013 C-USA schedule might look.
Home games against East Carolina, UAB, Southern Miss and North Texas along with road games at FIU, Middle Tennessee State, FAU and UTEP.
Normally, C-USA wouldn't want to send a member to both Florida-based schools in the same season. But there isn't any way around it because the Herd played at East Carolina, UAB and Southern Miss in 2012.
That means Marshall probably will have to play consecutive years at either FIU or FAU just to get the correct rotation.
Clear as mud?
Well, try this irony on for size.
C-USA will return to 12 members in 2014 and, then, increase to 14 again in 2015.
Anybody up for a game of musical chairs?
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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