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Coaches OK with new C-USA

Big Green
May. 08, 2012 @ 12:29 AM

ASHLAND -- By nature, Doc Holliday saw the additions. And then picked up on their locations. And then smiled.

It's the recruiter in him.

The Marshall University football coach was joined by Thundering Herd athletic director Mike Hamrick and men's basketball coach Tom Herrion on Monday at Superior Chrysler Dodge Jeep to kick-off the Big Green Coaches Tour.

A big topic of discussion? The newly revamped Conference USA.

Announced Friday, Charlotte, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, North Texas and UT-San Antonio will be joining the league for all sports in 2013.

For Holliday, a man of more than 30 years in the athletics business, it's a chance to challenge some of the best prep talent pools in the country.

"The one thing that you have to take a look at, when you look at every one of those schools, their recruiting base is huge," said the Herd's third-year head coach. "I mean you look at Texas, there's a lot of players in Texas. Those Texas schools are going to be talented.

"There's as many players in south Florida as there is anywhere in America. FIU, as you saw in the bowl game, is going to have excellent players. Charlotte's a beautiful campus with a bunch of students. They're going to have a great facility. There's a lot of players around there.

"When you look at all those schools, the potential is there for excellent teams. I'm sure they're going to be a handful down the road."

On Holliday's current roster, 26 players hail from Florida, one from Texas and four from North Carolina. The Tar Heel State number will increase when Charlotte's Matt Cincotta comes to the Herd in the fall as a freshman long-snapper.

The recruiting wars should pick up as these five schools replace the departed four of Memphis, UCF, SMU and Houston.

In terms of tradition, Louisiana Tech arguably provides the most recognizable jersey on the gridiron.

The Bulldogs have captured 25 conference football championships, including a 2011 Western Athletic Conference title.

"Louisiana Tech's a team that can play with anybody," Holliday said. "They've proven that over the years."

On the basketball front, Charlotte made the NCAA Tournament seven times in their previous 10-year stint in C-USA (1995-2005). North Texas took the Sun Belt Conference crown in 2010. UTSA has made the NCAAs twice since 2004.

"We're losing good teams, but I think we've added some guys," Herrion said. "Charlotte's been a team that's had great success in our conference before. North Texas is one of the best programs in the Sun Belt annually. Richard Pitino, who worked for me (at College of Charleston), will do a great job pumping new life into the FIU program. San Antonio's a very, very good up-and-coming program.

"I think we've added some quality teams. I think we've got some room to add even more teams."

Last Friday, C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said the league is still focused on growing. Reportedly, Old Dominion and Middle Tennessee State are the leading candidates to become the 14th member.

"We could have done one or two things in Conference USA," Hamrick said. "We could have folded, or we could have done what we did -- expand and then enhance what we're trying to do."

Which is far from done yet.

"What we're going to do in Conference USA is going to get stable and the Mountain West is going to get stable," Hamrick said. "And then we're going to continue on discussions of how these two conferences can get together to form a national conference.

"And when I say national, I'm talking about five time zones. From East Carolina on the east coast to Hawaii."

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