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BLOX Chuck Landon.jpg

Conference USA appears to be running a little scared.

It’s about time.

For several seasons, the league has been slip-sliding down the pecking order of the 10 FBS conferences, currently sitting in the precariously low position of No. 9.

Conference USA’s only cushion is the Mid-American Conference at No. 10.

Yet the league chose to ignore those warning signs in recent years, making such ill-advised — not to mention expensive — decisions as going to pod scheduling in men’s basketball during the last two seasons, while continuing to hold the annual men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in an indoor NFL training facility in Frisco, Texas.

Both are silly and costly.

But maybe, just maybe, the light seems suddenly to have come on for Conference USA’s leadership. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has had a way of making that happen.

At any rate, C-USA is indeed looking at football scheduling — particularly for the 2020 season — and travel expenses in basketball.

League sources have confirmed C-USA is looking at an abbreviated nine-game football schedule in 2020, depending on the progress of defeating the coronavirus. If the college football season is able to open on time, schools will be permitted to play their regularly scheduled 12-game slate.

But if not?

Then C-USA would switch to the nine-game schedule, which would include one non-conference game and eight conference contests.

That, however, unleashes a potential problem. Theoretically, the 14 C-USA schools could salvage one “money” game — but seven member schools play two “money” games.

Charlotte has games scheduled at Tennessee and at Duke, Louisiana Tech at Baylor and at Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee at Duke and home to Virginia Tech, Old Dominion home to Wake Forest and Virginia, Rice home to Army and LSU, UTEP home to Texas Tech and at Texas and Western Kentucky at Indiana and at Louisville.

Marshall University also could face a dilemma. Non-conference games against Pittsburgh, Ohio University and Boise State are part of home-and-home contracts. So, MU’s “money” game is at East Carolina. But since the game is scheduled on Aug. 29, which it what makes it so lucrative, it appears the early date probably would make the game a casualty.

Then there are the escalating travel expenses in basketball, which are caused by the far-flung geography of Conference USA’s membership.

One solution would be to add one new member to the East and West divisions, giving each eight members. Then, instead of playing everyone in the league, C-USA schools could play a home-and-home series against each team in their division.

That’s 16 league games, which is two fewer than C-USA schools played during the 2019-20 season.

And just think of the savings in travel, with the farthest trips being to FlU and Florida Atlantic.

So, who could C-USA get to join the league? Perhaps the Atlantic Sun is the place to look, with such schools as Stetson and the University of North Florida.

It would be a cost-cutting move, which obviously is what C-USA needs.

That’s why the league has formed a panel called the Futures Planning Committee, according to Old Dominion staff writer Harry Minium. The panel is chaired by Old Dominion Athletic Director Wood Selig and reportedly includes four other athletic directors, a senior women’s administrator and a faculty athletic representative.

The stated goal is to present C-USA athletic directors with a series of recommendations by the end of April.

The overwhelming good news, of course, is Conference USA is being proactive.

For a change.

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

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