Realignment really over? C-USA, Sun Belt discuss expansion pause

Western Kentucky and FIU will both be in Conference USA in 2014. (USATSI)

So now realignment has stopped.

The ACC's grant of rights two months ago effectively pumped the brakes on big-conference poaching, but one decision still loomed: Conference USA possibly going from 14 to 16 teams. Commissioner Britton Banowsky spoke extensively about this to me in April.

But C-USA presidents decided not to pursue a 16-team model for the foreseeable future as first reported Tuesday. This closes the door on small-conference moves and probably limits the number of FCS schools transitioning into the College Football Playoff revenue pie.

The Sun Belt seems OK with this.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson told me today he spoke with Banowsky on Tuesday and is "pleased to see the announcement.” The Sun Belt is losing FIU, FAU, North Texas, Middle Tennessee to Western Kentucky to C-USA in the next two years. In March, the Sun Belt back-filled with Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. 

"Hopefully this will allow both C-USA and the Sun Belt to go forward in a stable way and allow both conferences to focus on competition rather than membership,” Benson said.

The Sun Belt will be an 11-team league starting July 1, 2014, Benson said, and though a 12-team model is “still a possibility,” the league won’t further evaluate the issue until after the first of the year.

Maybe then someone like Liberty will get the call and make the difficult, often costly move to FBS. But for now, all 10 conferences appear stable.

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