Thursday, February 9, 2012

Conference USA chief begs for mercy

image Interesting blog entry from Brad Wolverton of the Chronicle of Higher Education on the latest temblor in the ever changing tectonic shifts of conference realignment.

Earlier this week, the University of Memphis formally announced that it had accepted the Big East’s invitation to join the league beginning in 2013 for all sports.

Memphis makes the fourth member of the non-automatic qualifying Conference USA to leave for the Big East, joining Houston, Southern Methodist and Central Florida.

Wolverton notes a statement by Britton Banowsky, commissioner of the oft-raided league of mid-majors:

“Based upon my conversations with commissioner Marinatto, the Big East has now completed its future membership plan,” Banowsky said. “If this is true, it is very helpful as we can now move forward with our plans in a more stable national environment. We hope that the other conferences appreciate the value of stability in intercollegiate athletics and higher education.”

Which Wolverton interprets (as I do) to mean: “Would everyone just back the hell off and leave us alone? You’re killing our efforts to assemble and maintain a stable conference over here, y’all! Damn.”

C-USA and the Mountain West—the other league raided during conference realignments—are attempting to merge and create at least a facade of a conference with football success. As it stands now, the merged league will include Southern Miss, East Carolina and Colorado State as the only programs with a football pulse. Southern Miss is the only one of those who were original members of C-USA.

Poor UAB—who left the Sun Belt to join the once-promising new league—is arguably the school most hurt by the dissolution of C-USA. If any of the three listed above get a call from one of the major conferences, the Blazers’ schedule goes south in a hurry and with it, the attendance figures the program desperately needs to convince decision-makers to let it go forward with new stadium plans. At least one writer even thinks they should (but won’t) consider returning to its Sun Belt roots.

For now though, Banowsky and the schools left from the Big East’s recent pillaging are just hoping no one else swoops in and cherry picks the remaining schools with programs not on life support. Begging for mercy sounds like a good idea—it may be the only move left.

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