All-American Level subscribers on our Patreon page get access to a monthly Q&A with me. Here’s our July edition, focusing on scheduling changes.
Q. James Madison has told the CAA that it intends to try to play football as an independent this year and is trying to put together a group of schools from the Sun Belt and CUSA to play this year. All would be close by including App State, Liberty, Marshall, Charlotte, probably ODU and other schools to play 8 games within day trip range. Could this be the beginning of the end of the Sun Belt and CUSA as currently arranged and a reorganization that would greatly cut travel costs for all. Does JMU have a chance to pull this off and how will it affect Rice?
A. First off, I love that we’re starting with realignment and some wide-ranging college football discussions. Let’s dive in.
I don’t see any way that James Madison’s upcoming football schedule directly impacts the future of Conference USA. But (and it’s a rather crucial but), I think the ramifications of scheduling in 2020 could impact what schedules look like in 2021 and possibly beyond. The more unconventional this season becomes, the more it changes the future.
The more examples we see of regionalized schedules working the harder it will be for Conference USA to continue justifying a flight from Norfolk, VA to El Paso, TX.
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Now, I wouldn’t bet on a clean reorganization of G5 conferences and the upper tier of the FCS. As much sense as it would make to split the Sun Belt and C-USA along East and West, the practicalities of making it happen seem impossibly difficult to navigate unless the financial situations of both conferences change. If someone can convince media partners they’d rather televise Marshall v JMU instead of FAU vs UTEP, that might escalate conversations.
And then there’s Rice. We talked with Aaron Coleman with the Runnin’ With the Herd Podcast on The Roost Podcast last week. He actually hit on the fact that Huntington, WV is only six hours further from Houston than El Paso. Bizarre.
The Owls lack a key bargaining chip to improve their status for the time being, the best they can hope for is a continued ascent of the football program under Bloomgren with some facilities improvements (primarily on Rice Stadium) forthcoming. If they can do that, they’ll be an attractive suitor with all of this finally does hit the fan.
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