Keeping Score

End is near for UAB football, what does it mean for C-USA?

UAB football is about to become a thing of the past, according to reports by USA Today and Sports Illustrated.

Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated reports that UAB is set to fire athletic director Brian Mackin and announce that the football program will be shut down on Thursday.

Reports started to surface a little over a month ago that UAB administration was considering dropping football and Blazer fans are facing their worst fears at the moment.

It's an unfortunate development for UAB fans and Conference USA as a whole. First-year head coach Bill Clark led the Blazers to a 6-6 season, reaching bowl eligibility for the first time since 2004. 

Legion Field has mostly been the scene of poor attendance over the last decade, but the Blazers had some of the better crowds in the conference this year thanks to Clark's efforts.

Anybody that follows UAB knows that the football program has been on shaky ground for some time now. The Alabama Board of Trustees was openly hostile toward the UAB athletic department when it last made a proposal to build a new football stadium in 2011.

The board was never crazy about UAB making the jump to FBS in 1996 when it joined C-USA.

UAB football is now in deep trouble and it's hard to see it being saved at this point.

However, UAB boosters are unlikely to give up easily. I wouldn't be surprised if we see lawsuits and other efforts to make sure UAB president Ray L. Watts doesn't succeed in ending the program.

There is a rally planned tonight on the UAB campus in support of the football program.

What it means for C-USA

While UAB football has suffered from a lack of support for much of its time in the conference, the school's departure would be a blow for C-USA.

The 2015 men's and women's basketball tournaments will take place in Birmingham in March.

With Memphis now in the American Athletic Conference, UAB became the centrally located C-USA school with a good-sized market. The Blazers' influence in the conference has grown in the last couple of years.

If UAB drops football, Conference USA will almost certainly drop the school as a member. The conference dropped basketball-only schools in 2005 when the league went through major defections like Cincinnati and Louisville.

From that point forward, C-USA has required that schools be full members, playing both basketball and football.

UAB could have decent options when it leaves C-USA. The Missouri Valley Conference has dealt with defections in recent years and UAB may be a nice addition even if it doesn't make much sense due to its location. The Sun Belt would be smart to give UAB strong consideration. The Sun Belt already has two basketball-only members, Arkansas-Little Rock and Texas-Arlington. 

The Atlantic Sun, Ohio Valley and Southern Conference would all happily add UAB as a new member. UAB may flirt with the Atlantic 10, but that doesn't seem like a good fit.

Where does C-USA go from here?

If UAB leaves, there are no obvious answers for the conference.

One school that appears a good option is Sun Belt member Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin' Cajuns have been strong in most sports recently. They also have a passionate fan base that would be good for the conference.

ULL would give C-USA a presence in South Louisiana that's been lacking with the departure of Tulane to the AAC. The Cajuns have put big crowds in the Superdome in bowl games in recent years.

The Sun Belt moved its conference basketball tournament to Lakefront Arena in New Orleans and the 2014 event was a success due mainly to the presence of ULL fans.

With the departure of programs in larger markets, Conference USA could eye New Orleans as a potential tournament site with ULL in the league. Southern Miss is another conference school located less than two hours from New Orleans.

Other options likely to be considered are:

James Madison: The Dukes were under strong consideration after the most recent turnover in C-USA. Old Dominion would love to see James Madison in the fold as an in-state rival. It's a university with an enrollment of 20,000 located in Harrisonburg, Va. The town is about the size of Hattiesburg and located two hours from Washington D.C. Whether C-USA has the patience for James Madison to make the leap from FCS is uncertain.

Georgia Southern: The Eagles have hit the ground running in the Sun Belt as a football program with a conference championship in their first season. The school may not offer a large market, but it does have a strong fan base and a student body of 18,000. Georgia Southern has a good baseball program, but doesn't offer a whole lot in basketball.

South Alabama: The Jaguars have transitioned well to FBS, but there are some issues to be addressed for the Mobile, Ala., school. USA hopes to have an on-campus football stadium at some point. South Alabama has one of the better basketball arenas in the region, but it struggles to attract a crowd. 

Arkansas State: The Red Wolves have had a run of good football, but the Jonesboro, Ark., school offers little else for the conference. ASU plans to invest more in football, but I don't see it being a top choice for C-USA.

Texas State: The Bobcats may get a close look because C-USA will likely be eyeing a program to join the league's West Division. Located in San Marcos, it's probably located a little too close to UTSA. 

Georgia State: It's located in Atlanta, but that's all the Panthers really bring to the table. GSU would have to pitch a strong plan for growth to get attention from C-USA.

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