Sunday, December 7, 2014

Alabama finally kills UAB football...Creating the question "Who replaces UAB in CUSA?"

I have a lot of angry thoughts about the treatment of UAB over the years and their ultimate demise, but for now I am not going to deal with those and I will instead ask the follow-up question so skillfully covered by Adam Rosenfeild, "Who takes UAB's slot in CUSA?"

Rosenfeild accurately points out that CUSA membership requires a school to field a football team.

UAB was likely to be part of the western division when Charlotte starts playing football.  That would have been a headache for everyone.

(from Wikipedia)

The current western division consists of Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, Rice, UTSA, North Texas, and UTEP.

If CUSA adds only one team, the sensible addition (IMO) is Texas State. That would reduce everyone's travel footprint vs. other options and provide a good market (Austin).  Plus, Texas State has a healthy future.  Now that may not happen.  If it doesn't happen it will likely be because UNT and UTSA block Texas State in a vote. 

Mechanics of a block

In a one team expansion, the prevailing logic in CUSA may favor a decision between Texas State, Arkansas State, and Troy, but it is almost certain that the vote will be effectively left up to the CUSA western schools with the CUSA eastern schools just voting for whoever the western schools rubberstamp.  There are 6 schools that matter in this vote: UTEP, UNT, UTSA, Rice, La Tech, and So. Miss.

I think Southern Miss and La Tech may prefer Troy or Arkansas State for shorter travel, but they know the score.  If the Texas schools decide they want someone, there just are not the votes for either of those schools.  But if UNT and UTSA try to block Texas State, the votes for an Arkansas State suddenly appear.  The new Conference USA appears to think a lot about getting a school in each state.  That kind of movement could get eastern division schools like Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee voting for the Red Wolves.

Why the Bobcat hate?

UNT fans/alumni feel their school is on a higher tier than Texas State.  The long and short of it from a fan perspective is that UNT has been trying to gain traction at the FBS level for decades.  They idea that UTSA and Texas State can catch them (effectively overnight) is a bitter wakeup call.  Additionally usually a fan/alumni opinion is shaped by the prevailing logic in the athletic department.  UNT fans felt the same thing about UTSA and if the Roadrunners' attendance was not as impressive as it was UNT might have been able to keep them out.  UTSA likely also feels being in a better conference gives them a competitive edge over Texas State and that is a reason to keep the Bobcats out.

This is wrong thinking.

The bottom line is that a regionally sensible division that is in all the big markets in Texas cuts travel costs and builds TV revenue.  FBS life is about to become very tough.  Adding Texas State will make it easier, not tougher.

Texas State has a winning coach.  They are going to win 6-10 games every year.  They will recruit well regardless of the conference, so keeping them out of the conference isn't going to help a CUSA team. However keeping them out of the conference does open the door to Sunbelt recruiting in Texas.  Bottom-line?  It may a net recruiting positive for CUSA schools to add the Bobcats.

Texas State has a large alumni base scattered throughout the state.  They are good road draws.  They will bring 5 thousand or more fans to every away game in Texas.

If you add UNT's, Texas State's, UTSA's, and UTEP's alumni bases together, you have the politicial leverage to force state supplied educational revenue towards these schools.  This kind of alliance makes financial sense.

Texas's State's easy allies

I am not convinced that Texas State has the AD and the President to press flesh and rally the vote.  That is what Texas State should be doing today.

UTEP would be a natural ally.  A Texas State addition would not only cut UTEP's travel vs. other candidates, it would also help UTEP recruit south Texas, an area close enough to be a very strong source of recruits.  UTEP also has issues with funding that having more allies with large alumni bases (ie. voting clout) could help to ease.

Rice would be another good ally. A Texas State addition would help Rice's attendance by creating another solid home game for the Owls --- something vital to that program's long term survival.

These programs both have a vested interest in seeing Texas State invited and could have some sway with UNT and UTSA.  UTEP is a good opponent for UNT and UTSA.  Both schools are excited about being seen as a peer of UTEP.  UTEP has been recruited by the MWC so they do have some leverage they can bring if needed.

Rice is an academic school that UNT loves being affiliated with.  Some candid talk from Rice leadership may help sway UNT.  If UNT wants to keep the affiliation with Rice, they need to make as many good home games for Rice as possible.  It is not difficult to see a day when Rice drops football.  Good visiting crowds help reduce the chance of such an occurrence.

UTSA and Texas State were outsiders in the southland due to their desire to play FBS ball.  It seems like UTSA could take that position again if there were no other objections.

La Tech and Southern Miss could actually profit from another game in south Texas due to the recruiting potential.  There are still a lot of unmined FBS caliber recruits down there.  Getting the two non-Texas schools tolerant to the idea would be a worthwhile goal.

Selling the eastern division on the idea that this would give CUSA strong support in the DFW (UNT), Houston (Rice), Austin (Texas State), San Antonio (UTSA), and El Paso (UTEP) markets --- effectively most of Texas --- with large alumni bases would also be a strong sales point for the Bobcats to try and make to eastern schools.  The sooner CUSA becomes the second most relevant conference in Texas, the better.

This is the right move for CUSA today.

In a few years CUSA can look at adding Georgia State to bridge the Florida schools and a western school like Arkansas State to round out their footprint, but the sensible in-conference battle to fight today is to convince the Texas schools that working together is in their best interest.

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