THE CLOCK ticks on the 16 Conference USA and Mountain West Conference presidents attempting to conglomerate into the nation's most . . . um . . . national league in college sports.
Or alliance. Or association. Or something.
I've always said things can get dicey when more than two (a) English professors, (b) high school principals or (c) college presidents occupy the same room. And so it may be with this C-USA/MWC rendezvous.
Word came out in the past week that the merger has hit a few potholes, perhaps ones that should have been spotted months ago.
It seems the presidents have figured out, or should have, that dissolving the conferences and forming a new one would cost a bunch of money. Central Florida, Houston, Southern Methodist and Memphis have to pay C-USA $500,000 to leave after 2012-13, plus their share of television rights revenue, a figure pegged north of $6 million.
If C-USA technically dissolves, those schools have a valid argument for keeping their money. And Memphis would have an argument for keeping the money off its NCAA tournament units.
That would be a sizable figure. Last April, the 31
conferences were awarded money based on NCAA tournament games played from 2005-10, at $240,000 a game. When the NCAA doles out cash this month based on the 2006-11 tourneys, Memphis will have earned C-USA 18 units to four for all other schools combined.
Some reports from out west indicate that these and other issues threaten to reduce this merger into a mere alliance, used for scheduling and pooling resources. While I suspect some of those reports are driven by a few WAC schools needing all this to fail, you wonder if this adventure will - or should - succeed.
I mean, this four-team "playoff" thing for a championship? At this point, the "finals" will be a bowl game, by definition. Which wouldn't be bad.
The automatic NCAA tournament bid? If the two leagues become one, the two bids become one. Don't see a loophole there.
But the presidents are still going full speed ahead, I hear, publicly and privately.
"We're making good progress on all fronts," Dr. Scott Cowen, Tulane's president and a leader on the Conference USA side, told The Gazette of Colorado Springs. "The cooperation between the schools and both conferences is excellent."
My crazy guess? Neither league dissolves, and an "alliance" forms for one or two seasons. That gets the sides working together in earnest and buys more time for the stickiest issues to be ironed out. Eventually, one league will absorb all schools and take on a new name.
As I said, it's just a crazy guess.
The recruitment of Kennedy Award winner Ryan Switzer of George Washington by North Carolina and coach Larry Fedora dredged up a few recent memories.
As Switzer committed to the Tar Heels, he mentioned that he was recruited as an "A-back" in Fedora's system - meaning he can catch passes in the slot, get rushes in a number of formations and return kicks.
Any Thundering Herd fans remember the name of Tracy Lampley?
Fedora spent four years at Southern Mississippi, going 33-19 and winning the 2011 Conference USA title game. The Golden Eagles did so impressively, coming into Top 25 Houston's home stadium and robbing the Cougars' manhood 49-28.
Marshall split its four games with Fedora, no small feat, but the Thundering Herd has had some trouble with Lampley over the last three.
Lampley's most damaging play came in his freshman year of 2009, when he returned a kickoff 93 yards for a second-quarter touchdown and a 14-10 Southern Miss lead. Marshall was feeling good before that kickoff, having scored on a Brian Anderson-to-Aaron Dobson 29-yard touchdown.