Conference USA is down to 11 schools following a joint statement announcing the departure of Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss.
Months of legal battles came to an unceremonious halt on Tuesday afternoon when Conference USA released two statements. The first was a joint announcement from the conference and the three (now officially) departing programs: Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss.
“Conference USA, Marshall University, Old Dominion University, and the University of Southern Mississippi have reached a resolution that allows the schools to withdraw as members at the end of the academic year. Conference USA will move forward into the 2022-23 academic year with 11 members. The Universities will compete as members of the Sun Belt Conference,” the statement read.
Fifteen minutes later, before any of the proverbial dust had settled, the league issue a second announcement, attempting to move the focus from the outgoing schools back to the conference itself.
“Conference USA is excited about the future with our 11 institutions in the 2022-23 academic year, and is committed to the long-term growth of the league as we usher in new members in the coming years,” the conference said. “As we begin this new era of Conference USA, our focus remains on providing the best possible experiences for our student-athletes while engaging in the broader national conversation and process around changing the overall model. The landscape of college athletics has shifted expansively and we will continue to be a substantial part of that evolution.”
What does this mean?
In short, not very much. This separation between the conference and these three schools has always seemed like it was coming in a matter of time. Although specific terms are reportedly not expected to be made public, reaching some middle ground financially was always thought to be the end game to this months-long saga.
What’s next for Conference USA?
The conference announced the addition of Jacksonville State, Liberty, New Mexico State and Sam Houston, effective July 1, 2023. That’s a year away, though, meaning the current 11 schools will play through one academic calendar before those new additions arrive. That will take some creativity, but it’s doable.
The real questions start when the next wave of programs leave Conference USA for the American conference. It’s conceivable the conference might need to consider further expansion at that time. And if additional reporting is to be believed, the last domino probably hasn’t fallen just yet.
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