CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Athletic directors of the newly reorganized Conference USA left Miami on Wednesday, having put together the blueprint for a unique 2013-14.And Marshall football fans have an opportunity to visit south Florida this fall. Twice, if they're up for it.The directors set the football opponents for the 14 schools playing the sport, and determined the basketball format for what will be a 16-team league.Four teams are leaving for the Big East, with eight coming aboard from four different conferences. What had been a dependable scheduling rotation had to be restarted from scratch - in football, for example, the 12 teams on the 2005-13 lineup completed the same four-year rotation twice.
The division setup will remain the same, geographically, with East and West divisions. Marshall remains in the East with rivals ECU, Southern Mississippi and Alabama-Birmingham, with Middle Tennessee, Florida International and Florida Atlantic joining the division.Tulsa, Texas-El Paso, Rice and Tulane remain in the West, joined by Louisiana Tech, North Texas and Texas-San Antonio.As before, division rivals will play each other, this time making up six of the eight conference games. Each team will have two cross-division games.With that, Marshall was assigned home games against ECU, UAB, Southern Miss and UTSA, the third-year program coached by Larry Coker. The road games will come against defending champion Tulsa, Middle Tennessee and, yes, the two Florida schools.For basketball, a 16-game single round-robin format was adopted, all teams playing each other once. There will be one other "mirror" opponent to play home-and-home, and MU was assigned its new Interstate 64 rival, Old Dominion.MU athletic director Mike Hamrick was pleased with the setup, and Thundering Herd officials have looked forward to a reduction in travel and a few more drivable football games, such as the trip to Murfreesboro-based Middle Tennessee."The thing for Marshall is, in this new Conference USA, we become more of a regional conference, with Charlotte, Old Dominion and Middle Tennessee close, plus we get a chance to go to Florida twice with FIU and FAU, which will always be in our division."The formats will be in place for a single season, as Tulane and East Carolina will migrate to the Big East and Old Dominion begins to compete for the championship in football. Charlotte's infant football program will begin C-USA competition in 2015.The league is trying to position itself for the coming realignment of the bowl games, and for television renegotiations in three years. Hamrick sees good prospects ahead, despite the defections."Middle Tennessee beat Georgia Tech. Louisiana Tech won nine games," Hamrick said. "Florida International we beat in the bowl game, they just had some back luck last year, and Charlotte is pouring millions of dollars into their program. Those are large schools in metropolitan areas."Our TV contract comes up in three years, and we've got to position ourselves to have potential for a good TV contract. We've actually gained households, and that's important from a television standpoint."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or email@example.com, or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.2013 C-USA football divisions
East DivisionAlabama-BirminghamEast CarolinaFlorida Atlantic
Florida InternationalMarshallMiddle TennesseeSouthern MississippiWest Division
Louisiana TechNorth TexasRiceTexas-El PasoTexas-San AntonioTulaneTulsaMU's 2013 C-USA football opponents
Marshall opponentsDates, times for Conference USA games to be announcedHome: Miami, Ohio (Aug. 31), Gardner-Webb (Sept. 7), UAB, East Carolina, Southern Miss, UTSAAway: FAU, FIU, Middle Tennessee, Tulsa
MU vs. C-USA, 2013Alabama-BirminghamAll-time series: Marshall leads 6-2Last meeting: UAB 38-31, Nov. 10, 2012 at Birmingham2012 season: 3-9, 2-6 C-USAComment: Blazers' win over Herd in Legion Field was a major highlight in Garrick McGee's first season.
East CarolinaAll-time series: ECU leads 10-4Last meeting: ECU 65-59, 2 OT, Nov. 23, 2012 at Greenville, N.C.2012 season: 8-5, 7-1 C-USA (lost to Louisiana-Lafayette 43-34 in New Orleans Bowl)Comment: Pirates' departure to Big East stands to end one of league's most entertaining rivalries - teams have played four overtime games, including the last two.
Florida AtlanticAll-time series: First meeting2012 season: 3-9, 2-6 Sun BeltComment: Howard Schnellenberger casts a long shadow over this program, now run by second-year coach Carl Pelini. Opened 30,000-seat stadium in 2011.
Florida InternationalAll-time series: Marshall leads 1-0Last meeting: Marshall 20, FIU 10, Dec. 20, 2011 at St. Petersburg, Fla.2012 season: 3-9, 2-6 Sun BeltComment: Mario Cristobal's postseason firing caught almost everybody by surprise, as did the hiring of Ron Turner. Turner is the third head coach in the program's 11-year history. FIU Stadium, aka "The Cage," was expanded to 20,000 in 2012, with eventual expansion to 45,000 planned.
Middle TennesseeAll-time series: Marshall leads 2-0Last meeting: Marshall 49-14, Nov. 26, 1994 at Huntington2012 season: 8-4, 6-2 Sun BeltComment: Blue Raiders were a tough out in the Herd's 1992 Division I-AA championship run. Lost league title in final week to Arkansas State, then was left out of 2012 bowl lineup.
Southern MississippiAll-time series: Southern Miss leads 5-3Last meeting: MU 59-24, Oct. 20, 2012 at Hattiesburg2012 season: 0-12, 0-8 C-USAComment: Proud program collapsed so badly, first-year coach Ellis Johnson was fired. Todd Monken comes from Oklahoma State to pick up the pieces.
TulsaAll-time series: Tulsa leads 4-0Last meeting: Tulsa 45-38, Oct. 6, 2012 at Huntington2012 season: 11-3, 7-1 C-USA (Conference USA champion, beat Iowa State 31-17 in Liberty Bowl)Comment: After stealing league championship game against Central Florida, the Golden Hurricane will return most of its starters on offense. One of two teams the Herd has failed to beat in C-USA play, with departed UCF the other.
Texas-San AntonioAll-time series: First meeting2012 season: 8-4, 3-3 WACComment: Nickname is the coolest of the incoming schools, the Roadrunners. Young program launched in 2011 in the FCS, then played respectably in the Western Athletic Conference last year. Averaged 29,226 fans per home game at the Alamodome.