After Memphis’ decision to leave for the Big East on Tuesday, Conference USA officials immediately contacted Temple to gauge the Owls’ interest in moving from the Mid-American Conference to C-USA, college football industry sources told CBSSports.com.
Temple thought it would receive the Big East’s invitation and was stunned the Big East invited Memphis. The Owls were former Big East members before getting dismissed from the league in 2004. Temple has been a member of the MAC since 2007 and in the past three seasons has a 26-12 record under former coach Al Golden and current coach Steve Addazio.
It’s unknown if the Owls would welcome a move to C-USA since there’s still the possibility the Big East could have more future openings if the Big 12 expands to 11 and takes Louisville. If that happens, Temple would be back on the Big East’s radar.
The future of Conference USA is also unknown. C-USA and the Mountain West are considering a merger or will dissolve the two leagues into one. With Memphis gone, will the leagues still combine or decide its better to go at it alone? One source said the possibility of the C-USA/MWC merger “changes weekly.”
If C-USA and the MWC did combine as an all-sports league it would consist of: Southern Miss, Marshall, East Carolina, UAB, Tulsa, Rice, UTEP and Tulane from C-USA and Wyoming, Air Force, Colorado State, UNLV, New Mexico, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii from the MWC. Hawaii would be a football-only member, making a 15-team all-sports conference and a 16-team football conference, not including Temple.
The benefits of the combined league, sources say, would be stability, increased potential television revenue and the additional exposure across the country in new markets. They also would be able to conduct a conference championship game in football. C-USA currently has a championship game, the Mountain West doesn’t.
If the leagues decide to remain as they are could they survive with all of the defections? The Mountain West will be losing TCU, Boise State and San Diego State, while C-USA will lose Houston, UCF, SMU and Memphis. The television revenue for each league would not be as substantial.
As unwieldy as a 15- or 16-team all-sports league stretched across the country may seem, it still likely would provide more long-term stability – at least until one of the current BCS AQ conferences decides to expand again and the dominoes continue to trickle down to the MWC and C-USA.
So does Temple join forces with C-USA or hold out hope for a Big East invite? Does C-USA combine with the Mountain West? We’ll have to wait and see, but the fact that in 2013 seven of the Big East’s 11 football members are former C-USA members (Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Houston, Memphis, UCF and SMU) was not lost on one college football industry source.“Perhaps the Big East can save time and take the rest of Conference USA’s teams,” quipped the source. “Then take C-USA’s name and divide the league into Red, White and Blue Divisions (as the league once had in the 1990s).”