Judy MacLeod’s heart was in the right place.
Really, it was.
In fact, in this entire conference realignment adventure, which has included the SEC, Big 12, American Athletic Conference, Mountain West and Conference USA, MacLeod, the veteran C-USA commissioner, is the one and only person who showed any interest in the greater good.
MacLeod deserves a lot of respect for her efforts.
Not that it did any good. It didn’t. There was no chance of that with guys like Mike Aresco lurking about. That’s because the veteran AAC commissioner’s solution consists of his one go-to move — raid and pillage.
That’s what Aresco did in 2013 and 2014, when the AAC sweet-talked UCF, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulsa and Tulane into leaving Conference USA and joining the original AAC.
So, what happened when Aresco lost the University of Cincinnati, UCF and Houston to the Big 12 in recent months after the Big 12 lost Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC? What else? He dusted off his signature move and raided Conference USA again.
Now, the AAC is taking UAB, UTSA, Florida Atlantic, Charlotte, North Texas and Rice from C-USA. For anyone doing the math at home, that’s 13 Conference USA members in eight years.
Who knew C-USA was merely the AAC’s farm league?
In the meantime, we have quite the conundrum.
Does Conference USA plan to continue as a league, limping forward on a wing and prayer with only eight members? Will Marshall University, Southern Miss, Old Dominion, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, UTEP and Western Kentucky be interested in competing in such an economical conference?
Or will C-USA’s leadership try to find two or four new members? Such schools as James Madison and Liberty come to mind.
Meanwhile, the other two Group of Five conferences — the Mid-American and Sun Belt — are sitting quietly while keeping tabs on all the moving and shaking.
That’s because the MAC really doesn’t have anything to add to the conversation. The Sun Belt? Ah, that’s an entirely different story. The SBC has No. 14 Coastal Carolina and the 5-1 Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns among its membership.
The Sun Belt is the most lucrative Group of Five league out there right now. And, yes, that includes the AAC and Mountain West.
The 12-school Sun Belt includes Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Arkansas State, Arkansas-Little Rock, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Texas State, Texas-Arlington and Troy.
Would the Sun Belt like to augment its membership during this highly fluid situation? Absolutely. The SBC really would like to add Marshall and Southern Miss to its roster, according to sources.
But what about the other six C-USA member schools? What happens to Old Dominion, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky and UTEP?
That’s where this situation grows even more intriguing. The Sun Belt could absorb C-USA’s eight schools, which would eliminate buy-in and buyout clauses and become a 20-team league.
But it’s not going to happen.
What is going to happen is Southern Miss joining the Sun Belt. That decision has been made. The Sun Belt also wants Marshall, but can MU afford a $1.5 million buyout from C-USA and a $1.5 million buy-in to the Sun Belt?
That’s a costly question.
Are there any other options for Marshall?
Well, as a matter of fact, there is another one. It seems the MAC, according to sources, is interested in Marshall returning and renewing the good old days.
Looks like MU needs someone to write a check.