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North Texas and Realignment in 2021 and Beyond

The official line from the department is that the powers that be at North Texas feel good about where the program stands as it comes time to play musical chairs again.

The stadium is good, the facilities are improving and investment is being made around the football program and the basketball program. The coaches are well paid relative to the rest of the league and hoops just enjoyed the best season in program history. That is good stuff but it is also very precarious.

A couple of seasons ago Middle Tennessee had the best men’s hoops squad and hosted the league title game against UAB. This past season they are clearly a poor basketball program and the football squad is far away from seriously competing in the East.

The dream is to level up into the Big XII. The reality is that CUSA/SBC leftover mashup is about the best that this program can hope for. Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State would make a lot of sense in a regional Texas league to go with NT, UTSA, and maybe like a Texas State and Rice. The problem is that the current Big XII schools have tasted the good life in a power five conference and want absolutely nothing to do with little old “G5” schools.

If you think this is ridiculous and classist please recall the message board discussions many NT fans had toward the idea of including UTSA in CUSA.

I believe that if you swapped out a Texas Tech with a UNT way back when NT would be flush with television cash and Texas Tech a nice program in west Texas. As it is, getting big money for being associated with Texas and Oklahoma for three decades makes it easy to weather the next couple of years, but things will be tough.

Kansas and Iowa State were rumored to be talking with the Big Ten, where some old rivals are currently playing. Texas Tech is rumored to be looking to the Pac-12. The AAC wants to raid the rest of the old Big 12.

This is all typical of how these things go. The biggest programs make some moves that benefit themselves, and the rest of the college football landscape shifts to get the best of the rest. This is how it always has and will be. North Texas is far away from being a school with a lot of political, social, and financial weight. Alliances will need to be forged. I say every effort should be made to hold hands with UTSA and Rice and even UTEP in this thing.

The coming half-decade will see limited television and streaming revenue as the major dollars are consolidated in the newly formed gigantic SEC/Big Ten/ACC leagues. Let us get North Texas into a league with some drivable destinations, against some opponents that can compete a little bit and have the same level of ambition. If the work to get in a league with a Texas Tech or an Oklahoma State can be done now, it should be done. That work is showing that NT has or can have the same level of ambition and support from alumni and powerful figures to be a good league partner.

The likely outcome is that Texas Tech and TCU prefer to be in a league with SMU and Houston — old league partners from back in the 20th century, you know — and NT will be in some form of its current situation. The fans and leadership of CUSA East programs have been complaining about the travel for years. Old CUSA members like the fans of Birmingham and USM feel like they are better than the 2013 additions and likely can make a case to get to the new AAC/Big 12 mashup if they play their cards right.

Ideal League Makeup:

UNT, Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, SMU, Rice, Houston, UTSA, Oklahoma State, Tulsa

I’ll Take It:

UNT, Rice, UTSA, Texas State, UTEP, La Tech, ULL, ULM 1

Reality?

UNT, Rice, UTSA, UTEP, La Tech, USM, Charlotte, FIU, FAU, Middle, ODU, Western Kentucky

I’ve written on CUSA Report about the problems that come with simply mashing up the SBC and CUSA and they boil down to the same reasons that it makes it difficult to get any regional conferences together: politics and money. NT has been in the same league with FIU and FAU for the better part of the last 20 years and I do not recall too many of my friends or family being excited for road trips or them coming to Denton for much. It is a difficult trip and the money earned by the television contracts does not make it overly worthwhile. They would be better off in a league with UCF and other Florida and Georgia schools and yet, politics and money are keeping them out.

CUSA is misfit league and yet it has been good for North Texas. Having three (but really two, UTEP is so far out there it is not culturally or geographically “close”) Texas teams and a good Louisiana Tech team nearby has been good for the programs. Here is hoping the board of regents and powerful alumni and the athletic department can aim high but also preserve what is good about the current set up.


  1. This is a UNT site so I won’t go into too much detail about how the Louisiana schools have a lot of administrative hate. ULM/ULL and LT are not going to play nicely and that really makes this unlikely