Mike Aresco, the AAC’s commissioner, announced that the league did accept the six schools from CUSA into the league. There is no official word on when that will be. Everyone has speculated that the start of 2023 makes the most sense given the planned move to the SEC by TexOma in 2025, and that the Big 12’s replacements will join in 2024-ish.
Conference USA has been good to North Texas, seeing the Mean Green win its first NCAA tournament game while a back-to-back champ in men’s hoops, and setting records for attendance at Apogee at well, the apogee of Seth’s career. The initial jump from the Sun Belt was about money and association with closer, like-minded schools. This jump is something similar. NT is foregoing some money to get more money even if it is less than the current AAC programs.
The real value is in the competition. SMU, UTSA, Rice, Tulsa, Tulane, and Memphis are all within a day’s drive. Competing with SMU directly for championships is a great way to build up the rivalry and enthusiasm for both programs. Yes, this is good for SMU, too. They need some folks out there to watch some games. The largest concentration of North Texas alumni is in the DFW area. Having SMU as a ‘road’ destination means another opportunity for everyone to see the Mean Green — in all sports.
I do not expect regular road trips for every division opponent. Tulsa is a short drive but it isn’t exactly on anyone’s list of must-go places. New Orleans is great but it is just far enough to make you think of flying, which does not lend itself to an easy day-trip. Houston, San Antonio are easy trips for students, families, and close enough to drive down without feeling exhausted. Memphis and Birmingham are a little different, but will be must-travels at least once every five years for the experience.
It is a good league division for the Mean Green. The basketball is a step up for a program that wants to level up. What way to attract talent and keep talented coaches than to step up in competition. Instead of Southern Miss and FIU, there is UCF and Memphis. The American has Memphis, and Houston in the Kenpom top 20 this season, and SMU, UCF, and Wichita St all ahead of 71-ranked UAB in CUSA.
Oh, this is subject to change not only because of the realignment, but also because bowl-affiliations change every year. If NT is able to reassert itself on the gridiron, we can look forward to the following:
Fenway Bowl vs. ACC
– Military Bowl vs. ACC (2021, 2023, 2025)
– SoFi Hawaii Bowl vs. Mountain West
The AAC will get a chance at putting four teams in these bowls …
– Cure Bowl vs. Group of Five or Army
– Myrtle Beach Bowl vs. MAC or Sun Belt
– RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl vs. Group of Five or Army
– SERVPRO First Responder Bowl vs. ACC, Big 12, or Pac-12
– TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl vs. SEC
– Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl vs. Group of Five or Army
– Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl vs. ACC, Pac-12, or SEC
Also in the affiliation mix going forward …
– Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (2020, 2022, 2024)
Okay, that is not anything amazing but the cash, the chance to get a sniff at the CFP if everything breaks right, and the regionality are all great things about this move.
The American now has four Texas teams, and a strong case can be made for keeping the headquarters in Dallas and hosting events in and around the Metroplex. Gone is the curtain at the Star, and here is Dickies in Fort Worth. Adjust your schedules accordingly.
This is essentially the CUSA you probably thought you were joining in 2013, isn’t it?
I will miss La Tech, UTEP, and talking with Southern Miss fans on the twitters. Good times. CUSA was good to writers of the non-traditional ilk, and welcomed coverage. That they embraced little blogs like this one, and others was an indication that the league was not getting “real” coverage but so it goes. Coverage follows interest and for these programs, the league is betting that there will be interest enough to help keep up something approaching the existing contracts.
Beyond that, NT has not fared well against Houston (leaving), and SMU in the last half-decade. There will continue to be a cash disparity for the immediate future, with the “original” members pulling in about $7MM and NT getting about $2MM. Five million a year is a hard gap to close and NT will be doing a lot of chasing even if and when that closes.
The work is not over. NT’s fans and administrators have big dreams, but that takes consistent work, consistent support, and better play-calling, Seth.