Five reasons CUSA will be better than the rest in Five Years. Obviously, I am not saying conference USA will surge past the SBC, MAC or even the MWC and AAC. Sorry, yes I am. I see three of the G5’s pulling ahead, on a limited basis. The realty is the American, Conference USA and the Mountain West will surge to the top. These three share many of the same characteristics. So, I listed five reasons how and why CUSA will strengthen their position among the G5 conferences, especially for football in the future.
1). Market matters – Many of the harshest critics have sited CUSA went after market not talent. The fact is they were able to achieve both. The bottom line in College athletics is “show me the money”. We have all watched and seen where that has taken Collage football /athletics in the past 10 years. It currently is threatening the status of amateur athletics at the college level. With that said CUSA really made the logical choice that aligns them to a market demand for TV dollars. All I have to say is Texas, Florida, Charlotte, Nashville and Norfolk. TV rating hot spots with ESPN, NBC Sports and Fox. The stars do not have to align perfectly to have the media dollars and negotiations move to a favorable position for CUSA. The fact is the 4 reasons I listed below will reinforce why the #1 reason is a trump card “Market matters” and #2 – #6 will solidify how CUSA will be headed for the stars…..up.
2) The Texas rivalries – The three Texas schools together will foster a larger interest regionally, in Texas and on a national level. North Texas, UTEP and UTSA, the power of the three together will give vast visibility to the conference in some of the largest population centers in the country, as well as inroads for recruiting that is not shared by many conferences. The Florida schools share a few of the same traits with rivalry, recruiting and exposure. If both schools (FAU and FIU) can show improvement and success on the field, the sky is the limit. Old Dominion and Charlotte, two programs that will make an immediate impact on the enhanced market appeal start playing in 2014 and 2015. With the fresh new beginning, coupled with early success, climbing attendance demands, market exposure and fertile recruiting grounds they add value at every level to the conference. CUSA’s potential is woven into its markets. Large important population centers in growing, attractive, warm, tourist friendly locations that are very appealing to the fans and the media.
3). Tradition, respect and name notoriety – Southern Miss and Rice have tradition and prestige. Very few schools can boast about what they have achieved. Having them as members, this alone adds credibility. Louisiana Tech and Marshall, have the traditions and a growing history of fan support and success that again gives the league name recognition and notoriety. That will help surge CUSA forward. Two up and coming work horses, meat and potato programs if you will, both have seen their stock rise in the last few years. WKU and MTSU, they bring in an added importance due to market locations, fan support and visibility. They especially bring in an appeal from the heartland that solidifies the stability of the League. The outstanding overall athletic departments with years of winning traditions add respectability and strength to CUSA.
4) Attendance and the newbie’s – UTSA, ODU and Charlotte. What the University of Texas San Antonio and Old Dominion have accomplished is rare. Two start up programs that have distinguished themselves on the field and have two of the fastest growing fan bases in the country. A new 30,000+ seat stadium on the water in Norfolk will help raise awareness for the potential of the program. UTSA’s fan support will be 2nd to none. The Alamo Dome is quickly becoming the place to be on a Saturday. The upward trend of increased attendance will get stronger in the next few years. Charlotte with sell outs and a beautiful new expandable stadium, what else do I have to say? There is no doubt rivalries will be born and attendance will soar as this spreads throughout the conference. With success on the field attendance will see dramatic improvements from every school in the next few years.
5) Basketball and other sports – CUSA is well positioned to see the emergence of a new surge in basketball recognition. This will not only happen in the future, but next year. LA Teach and Southern Miss carried the torch this year with the NIT invites, but there is very little separation at the top of the league and it will only get stronger with UTEP, UAB, Charlotte, ODU, WKU, MTSU and UTSA, nine of the 14 returning teams having winning seasons the media will finally take note. Women’s Basketball will flourish, last year’s 9 post season invitations show the strength of the women’s programs. Soccer, Baseball, Golf and many other Athletic programs have and will excel at the conference level.
CUSA will compete with the other G5’s and make vast improvements and will surge to the front. The media dollars and TV deals will come. The future of the conference will hit new highs. It is in the stars.