/It’s past time for radical change in Conference USA

It’s past time for radical change in Conference USA

It doesn’t work. It wasn’t effective long before the pandemic. It won’t work right now. The economics aren’t working. Too much travel and not enough revenue. The league was created with TV markets in mind. It has been modified over the years. FIU and FAU joined the league in 2013 to regain the Florida television market that was lost after UCF and South Florida exited. UTSA was therefore accepted in 2013. San Antonio has many TVs. However, the networks are not impressed. The TV contracts for big city teams are not always lucrative. Floridaans prefer to watch the SEC Gators, ACC Seminoles, and Hurricanes. Texas A&M, Texas A&M, and TCU are the most popular channels in Texas. FIU, FAU, and UTSA were all that was needed for Conference USA. Conference USA spans three time zones, El Paso to Miami, 1,932 mi by highway and more than 1,600 mi by air. It’s just too far. The league extends as far north as Marshall, West Virginia. There are intermediate stops in Charlotte and Bowling Green, Kentucky. It is too dispersed, it doesn’t make sense. This is Mississippi Today, and we are more interested in Southern Miss. CUSA is a geographical nightmare for the Golden Eagles who, along with UAB are the only remaining original members of the league. Southern Miss would love to be part of the SEC and enjoy its riches in all its wildest dreams. It’s unlikely that this will happen. Second, and perhaps more importantly, USM would rather be in the American Athletic Conference alongside former CUSA friends like Memphis, Houston and UCF. This is unlikely to happen either. The AAC longs for a lucrative TV deal, but it has not happened. Hattiesburg is a small market. Memphis is currently at 22-40-1 in football against USM, Tulane is at 8-23 against Eagles), UCF (2-6), East Carolina 12-27 and Houston are all tired of being beaten up back in the old days. They are currently 49-105-1 against Southern Miss. Many of these schools only have nightmares about Hattiesburg. Southern Miss has a few options. One is to choose a regionalized league that has more natural rivalries and less travel. Another option is a bus league that includes teams from CUSA or the Sun Belt Conference. Although we can disagree about the exact composition, I would take Southern Miss, UAB Louisiana Tech, Rice and North Texas State from CUSA. I would take Arkansas State, South Alabama and Louisiana as well as Georgia Southern and Georgia State from Sun Belt. Turn up the engines. You can save money on airfare. This is a smart move that would save thousands, if not thousands, of dollars. Take a look at Southern Miss’s 2020 football schedule. The Golden Eagles will fly over 1,000 miles on Oct. 17 to play UTEP at a CUSA league match. Coastal Carolina also flew more than 900 miles that day to play Louisiana in a Sun Belt match. Both trips are expensive. How many USM fans will you believe will make the trip? How many Coastal Carolina fans will travel all the way from Coastal Carolina to Lafayette? Both questions are not answered. It would be more sensible for Louisiana and Southern Miss to play in the same league. They share a long athletic history. They have played 51 times together over the years. They travel three hours by bus. Fans will find it an easy trip. Coastal Carolina might have stronger rivalries than, for example, Charlotte, Old Dominion, Marshall of Conference USA. Even worse is basketball travel. Southern Miss took a CUSA road trip last season to Marshall and Western Kentucky for two games. It felt more like an adventure. On Wednesday, the Golden Eagles boarded a bus from Chicago to New Orleans to fly to West Virginia. They flew from Chicago to Charleston, West Virginia and then took a bus to Huntington to play a Thursday night match. They then bused to Bowling Green to play WKU Saturday. After the game, they bussed back to Hattiesburg. Three days of classes were missed by the players. This is insane. You might be asking why they didn’t charter. Can’t afford it. The same problem is faced by baseball teams, as well as the same travel nightmares. Women’s softball and basketball teams also face the same dilemma. This pandemic will change everything about athletics and many other facets of our lives. Already, many universities across the country have stopped playing sports due to economic realities. It is more important than ever to find ways to reduce costs, especially for schools that are not part of the power conferences. This is the best time ever to do it. It’s not like it was 10 years back.