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Chuck Landon: Changing members put C-USA in a pickle

May. 24, 2012 @ 12:25 AM

The future obviously isn’t now for Conference USA.

Heck, it’s not even next year.

With four members leaving by July 1, 2013, and another six schools joining the league in time frames varying from 2013 through 2015, C-USA hasn’t been discussed in the present tense very much lately.

Until now.

That’s because as future-oriented as this league appears to be, there are still some decisions about that future which have to be made right now.

Scheduling for football is a prime example.

Since current Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) members Old Dominion and Charlotte aren’t going to upgrade to FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) status until the 2015 season, it leaves Conference USA unbalanced.

How unbalanced?

Imagine your tires after driving around Huntington’s pothole-ridden streets.

The problem is in the 2013 and ’14 football seasons, C-USA’s East Division will number only five schools while the West will have seven.

The East will include Marshall, East Carolina, Southern Miss, UAB and Florida International. But the West Division will feature such holdovers as Tulsa, UTEP, Rice and Tulane along with new members UT-San Antonio, North Texas and Louisiana Tech.

That obviously wreaks havoc with scheduling.

Which is precisely why this problem already is being addressed although it’s not exactly looming on the horizon.

“We’ve already discussed it,” said Mike Hamrick, Marshall athletic director. “We’re going to move one school from the West Division to the East for those two football seasons. Then, when Old Dominion and Charlotte join for football in 2015, that school will move back to the West Division.”

Good solution.

Now, it’s just a matter of determining which of the seven West Division members will pull a reverse Horace Greeley and “Go East, young man.”

“That hasn’t been decided yet,” said Hamrick. “That’s probably one of the things we’ll discuss when we (C-USA athletic directors) get together in Dallas in August.”
In the meantime, let’s peruse the seven candidates, geographically.

Three schools in the West Division obviously don’t make the cut mileage-wise. UTEP (1,635), UT-San Antonio (1,274) and Denton-based North Texas (1,013) all are located quadruple-figure miles from Marshall.

Rice isn’t much closer at 951 miles away in Houston.

That pares the choices to three: Tulsa, Tulane and Louisiana Tech. As the car flies, Tulsa actually is the closest to Huntington at 850 miles. But La Tech is only one mile farther in Ruston, La. Then, Tulane checks in at 872 miles away in New Orleans.

So, how do we decide who will be the odd-man out?

Draw straws? Play a spirited round of eeny, meeny, miny, mo? Musical chairs?

Nah.

There’s actually a more logical way of determining the vagabond school.

All the private schools in C-USA are in the West Division. The list includes Tulsa, Rice and Tulane. Since they comprise the country club set in C-USA, the trio naturally would prefer to stick together.

That means the winner is. ... Louisiana Tech.

Actually, I thought La Tech was the clear-cut choice from the very beginning. And, as usual, that would mean the East Division would continue its trend of being the toughest, most competitive division because La Tech has the strongest football program of the six newcomers.

All in all, Louisiana Tech is a palatable choice.

Crawfish, anyone?

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


 

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