So, What is This New League Going to Do? – From the Bird’s Nest
Yesterday, the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA announced they were tearing down their houses to build a new one, and live together in perfect harmony.
Time will tell whether they're successful.
In their statement, the new league said they were planning to be a conference consisting of 18-24 schools, split into divisions.
So, who else gets invited to the party?
And how big is the party going to get?
Mark Ferguson, who is an attorney, a fan of college sports and a guy who's smarter than most of us, talked about some of the hurdles and decisions facing the new league (click here to read his blog).
Most fans don't realize the criteria that must be met according to NCAA rules. That's why you see suggestions from the general public which are great, until you realize they don't conform to NCAA rules.
Here's my guess.
And, it's just a guess.
The new league would eventually like to be 24 schools. That probably won't happen right away. And, it won't happen at all unless the NCAA allows that 13th game, which would be the new league's semi-final matchup.
But what the NCAA surprises everyone and grants a waiver?
In that case, you'd see two divisions, east and west, with two subdivisions in each. You'd have twelve teams in a division, and it's easy to split that in two and schedule just like the SEC has done for years. Sub-division winners would meet in the semifinals and the two division champions would meet for the overall title.
If 24 is where this new league is headed, everyone is a candidate for inclusion.
But, it's likely this new league will look to add some of the biggest markets first.
That would mean Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Nashville, Dallas and San Antonio would be on the league's radar. So would San Jose and Salt Lake City. And, there's more to Philly than just a cheesesteak.
So, for sake of argument, let's slot some schools in this new league.
It's likely UTEP will move to the Western side, meaning there would be three slots open. Utah State? You're less than an hour from Salt Lake. You're in. San Jose State? Nice market. You're in. That would leave New Mexico State and Idaho as schools out west without a home. UTEP and UNM won't want New Mexico State. I can't imaging anyone wanting Idaho. The other possibility would be Texas-San Antonio, although they make more sense on the other side. That last member needs to be worked out. Oh, and since Hawai'i is a member for football only, you'll need a non-football school to balance things out. Denver? Put that WAC thing to the side. You can be here, too.
Now, with UTEP heading West, that leaves five, count 'em, five openings on the eastern side.
If the West has a football-only, the East will as well. Hello, Temple. We know you love your other sports in the Atlantic-14 and you're bummed the Big East didn't include you. This is much better for you than the MAC. Now, four full-timers are necessary. FIU? Come on down. We like the Miami market. North Texas? Hey, that's close enough to Dallas for us. Now, we're down to two.
Now, let's go back and address Texas-San Antonio. If they wind up the westernmost school in the East rather than the easternmost school in the West, you can slot them here. Now you need just one. And, the new league could choose from Louisiana Tech or any of the remaining Sun Belt schools. Oh, wait. I forgot Nashville. Hello Middle Tennessee.
If UTSA is in the West, then those Belt schools and Tech are back on the table for the final slot. WKU would make sense as a natural rival for Middle. FAU would do a better job of getting into the Ft. Lauderdale market than FIU. I'm sure every other remaining school could make a case as to why they should be included. And, of course, Louisiana Tech delivers that Shreveport market, right? And, if a non-football school is needed, Old Dominion, VCU and others are possibilities.
What does that mean for the Sun Belt?
It means they might lose FIU, UNT and Middle Tennessee. There could even be a fourth defection, depending on what happens to UTSA. Texas State would be available. It's possible Louisiana Tech could be as well. And, if UTSA is in the East, New Mexico State could be added as a ninth football member. They could keep their other sports in the WAC, which would become a non-FBS league. Regardless, the Sun Belt would survive.
Now, none of this happens without the waiver from the NCAA. If that's not forthcoming, then 24 is as defunct as the television show of the same name.
Eighteen or twenty then makes better sense.
But they'll still look at market size to make determinations.
In a 20-team league, Utah State, Temple, North Texas and FIU make the most sense for additions.
Now, if Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson or CUSA Commissioner Brannon Banowsky read this blog and there's something in here they haven't thought of, Mark Ferguson and I want a finder's fee.
And through the confusion of how many, who they are and where they're located, I've come up with one conclusion:
It really sucks to be Idaho.