Formed in 1995, Conference USA has been the home for Rice football and athletics for 13 years and there’s always been plenty of drama in the conference.
Long-standing members of the Southwestern Conference until 1996, Rice had an eight-year stint in the Western Athletic Conference before joining CUSA in 2005, a year of tremendous upheaval for the conference.
Formed in 1995, Conference USA has had 32 members across the full spectrum of athletic competitions over its 22 years of existence. Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida, Southern Miss, UAB, Memphis and Tulane were founding. all sports members while DePaul, Marquette, Saint Louis, Charlotte were non-football members.
Rice joined the conference in 2005 when more than half of the founding members left for the Big East and the Atlantic 10. Joining them that year were UCF, SMU, Tulsa, Marshall and UTEP. The American Conference poached half of CUSA in 2013 and 2014, opening up the door for current members FAU, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Old Dominion, UTSA and Western Kentucky to join across the span of those two seasons.
Conference USA has been the subject of two major realignments in the past 15 years, and more are likely coming. Rice has 13 years in the CUSA under their belt, but they too would be willing to move on if they find the right fit. The Owls, like many others among the Group of Five, are paying close attention to major television contracts as they expire and continuously looking for opportunities to improve their status.
The TCU model is where Rice is heading. The Horned Frogs parlayed success in the Mountain West with the perfect opportunity and made the jump to a better conference with more exposure and more money. If Rice wants to make the move any time soon, they’ll have to start with winning where they’re at. The rest will follow. For now, it’s time for year 14 in the CUSA.