Conference USA. Where to go from here.

In an earlier post about 2/3rds into the season I had looked at how C-USAs new members (UNT, UTSA, La Tech, FIU, FAU, MTSU), those that will remain (UAB, S Miss, UTEP, Marshall, Rice) and the “quitters” (Tulsa, Tulane, ECU) fared compared to the other groups. For completeness, I have updated those numbers.

Newbies overall: 35-39
Newbies in conference: 26-22
Newbies vs remainders: 14-8
Newbies vs quitters: 4-6
Remainders overall: 25-39
Remainders in conference: 17-23
Remainders vs quitters: 4-4
Quitters overall: 20-18
Quitters in Conference: 13-11

You can make of that what you will. Clearly the new programs were able to compete. Although the remaining programs as a group were the weakest, they still had both teams in the championship game. That said — the season is over. The newbies of this season will already be conference veterans next season when Old Dominion and Western Kentucky join. We will have a look at every program once signing day is over.

So what does the conference lose — apart from results on the field — and what is coming in?

Well CUSA loses two private schools in Tulane and Tulsa that have a good bit of football tradition (particularly the latter), but that are fairly poor in attendance. The way C-USA is set up now, neither was a particularly good fit culturally and both have some growth limitations. Leaving hurt for UNT because they were geographically close, but for everyone else it won’t be a big problem. Tulane had just gotten their act together with a new on-campus stadium, but otherwise C-USA should be quite ok. ECU leaving hurts a bit more because that program is stable both off and on the field with good attendance numbers that are not really matched by any of the remaining programs.

Prerception-wise it will also be somewhat of a hit. Brett Vito made something out of UNT getting votes after being the program that waits the second longest behind Louisiana Lafayette to be ranked again in the AP top 25. Now to be ranked again you have had to be ranked at some point in the past in the first place. All programs that leave have a history with such bright moments. All programs coming on board have never been ranked. In fact the 2014 C-USA will have quite a few programs that were never ranked (MTSU, FAU, FIU, UAB, UTSA, W. Kentucky, Old dominion). That kind of thing does change perception of what is possible at a place. Let’s see how that stacks up against other conferences:

Percentage of teams ranked at some point (average number of polls passed since last ranking for other teams)

  • C-USA 2014: 46.2% (336)
  • Sun Belt 2014: 18.2% (917)
  • MAC 2014: 61.5% (67)
  • MWC 2014 83.3% (94)
  • AAC 2014 100% (156)

I think this exemplifies a) how far C-USA perception-wise is still ahead of the Sun Belt, where only LaLa and NM State from next year’s line up have never been ranked and for both it is an eternity ago.

But other than the Sun Belt, the remaining C-USA teams really can’t stack up against any other conference in terms of big moments, both historically and present. The MAC still has a similar number of teams that were never ranked, but the Mountain West and the American have very few teams that never made a (positive) name for themselves. That, more than what they were doing on the field, is why Tulsa, Tulane and ECU will be missed. Until C-USA has a few ranked teams of its own again that is.