It is official; UAB is dead in the water. Football has been officially been terminated for the Blazers. As per the bylaws set in Conference-USA, in order to be a member, you have to field football. In essence, this means that UAB will not be able to seek associate membership. What does this mean for C-USA? With Charlotte coming in next year, this will give C-USA thirteen members, which they know already is hell for scheduling. They need a new member to even things up. To recap, here are two of their more likely options:
South Alabama- With a city of over 400,000 in its metro area, Mobile is a decent sized market. USA has a strong commitment to having competitive sports. USA has a lot of upside and they just finished this year with a 6-6 mark, which makes them bowl eligible. Their only problem would be that they have the same problem UAB had: the lack of an on-campus stadium. Also, Southern Miss would chafe at another school recruiting in the same region as they do.
Troy- They have an on-campus and athlertics that have been competitive in the past. One big problem is that it is a small town that gives them no large media market.
There are other options if they do not want a school in Alabama:
1. Arkansas State- the town of Jonesboro is just a stone’s throw away from the city of Memphis. ASU has done very well in football in recent years. Arkansas State has top-notch facilities including an on-campus football stadium. If C-USA is trying to keep a continuity with its divisions, ASU would be excellent.
2. Louisiana-Lafayette- ULL has excellent athletics and state-of-the-art facilities. The city of Lafayette has a total metro area of over 600,000 people. The only roadblock would be LA Tech. Would they want a rival program in their home state?
3. New Mexico State- Las Cruces is very close to El Paso, TX. Also, UTEP would like to have a travel partner. New Mexico State would have the benefit of putting all of their athletic in one conference.
Certainly, there would be a ripple effect if the Sun Belt were to lose one or more members. How would reload or would they do so? Maybe ten members might not be so bad. They could do like the Big 12 where everybody plays each other but Idaho might prompt them to expand because of their geography. If they did pull the trigger, here are some candidates:
North Dakota State- with a total metro area of almost 225,000, Fargo is a decent-sized town. The Bisons have been running roughshod over the FCS with three straight national title and going for a fourth. They have beaten five FBS schools. Plus, North Dakota has experienced a strong economic boom as of late. They would be a great football only replacement for NMSU. They have the necessary facilities and could easily make the jump.
Jacksonville State- In the event that they lose an Alabama school, they could be a darkhorse. They have a 25,000 seat stadium and have been dominant in the Ohio Valley Conference. They would really like not to be such an outlier and play teams in the Deep South.
Liberty- a school that is chomping at the bit for an invite. They have great facilities and a commitment to athletics. They are in the state of Virginia, a fast-growing market. Their only hang-up is that they are a lighting rod for controversy.
Overall, I feel sorry for the UAB football players but one school’s loss may be another’s gain