Patrick Magee

Big 12’s decision freezes AAC, C-USA, Southern Miss

Southern Miss receiver Isaiah Jones tries to catch a pass off the helmet of Rice's V. J. Banks on Oct. 1 in Hattiesburg.
Southern Miss receiver Isaiah Jones tries to catch a pass off the helmet of Rice's V. J. Banks on Oct. 1 in Hattiesburg. ttisbell@sunherald.com

The Big 12 is staying put at 10 members and that means Conference USA, the American Athletic Conference and the Mountain West likely avoid defections from their lineups.

It does not, however, completely eliminate the prospect of C-USA and the AAC losing members in the not too distant future.

UConn appears likely to remain in the AAC, but the possibility remains that the school could elect to leave for the Big East and put its football program in a mid-level conference like the MAC. The chances of UConn leaving the AAC appear much less likely now that the conference's lineup remains intact.

If both Houston and Cincinnati had jumped ship for the Big 12, UConn could have looked at the Big East as its best option and simply relegated the football program to a smaller conference.

If UConn wants to eventually become a Big Ten or ACC member, it would be wise to stay put and gradually build up a stagnant football program.

MWC possibilities?

The Mountain West, which had Colorado State and Air Force among the 11 finalists for Big 12 expansion, could eventually decide to add to its 12-team membership. The conference has long had an eye on the state of Texas since TCU left for the Big 12 in 2011. C-USA members Rice, UTEP, Texas-San Antonio and North Texas could all be viable options for the Mountain West.

It would be hard for a C-USA school to turn down an offer to join the AAC or Mountain West considering the state of the league's new TV contract. The league will receive about $2.8 million in total TV revenue in 2016-17, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

That's a huge drop off from the previous contract that awarded each school about $1.1 million per year.

Conference USA is increasingly on the same footing as the Sun Belt Conference, a league that was once considered far inferior.

Holding pattern

All the buzz over the summer about the possibility of the AAC having to potentially bring in 1-3 new members created hope for programs like Old Dominion and Southern Miss, giving them a possible path out of C-USA. Instead, they're stuck in an unwieldy 14-team conference that is arguably the least stable league among the Group of Five.

Instead of reviving old rivalries with Memphis and Tulane in the AAC, Southern Miss fans will have to grow accustomed to Louisiana Tech and UAB as their biggest foes.

The best way for USM to work its way out of C-USA is to follow the Boise State model from 2002-10 when it ran roughshod over the rest of the WAC in football and consistently earned its way into the major bowl bid discussion. USM also has to address an antiquated basketball arena and show major improvement in fund raising.

If current conditions continue, Southern Miss isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

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