The Sun Belt and Conference USA are both exploring expansion possibilities as the American Athletic Conference appears poised to soon become a 14-team league, sources tell CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd.
Conference USA believes it can add James Madison and FBS independent Liberty inside of the next two weeks if details can be worked out, sources tell Dodd. Should C-USA succeed with those additions, it's believed Marshall and Old Dominion would be apt to stay in a nine-team league with C-USA only losing Southern Miss.
The battle for power is just the latest move in what has become a complicated series of realignments happening across the FBS landscape. The news comes on the same day that six Conference USA institutions applied for inclusion into the American Athletic Conference, leaving C-USA with only eight long-term members.
The AAC is adding the C-USA schools to backfill its league after Houston, UCF and Cincinnati announced plans to join the Big 12 along with current independent BYU. The Big 12 expansion became necessary after Texas and Oklahoma opted to ditch the conference for the SEC in an earth-shattering moment for the future of the sport.
If the Sun Belt were to poach the three schools from Conference USA, it would leave the latter with just five member institutions, bringing it below the level to reach NCAA qualification for Division I championships. However, beating the Sun Belt for 2016 FCS champion JMU could be the key piece that keeps Conference USA alive long term.