Not in football, though. Western Kentucky, which has played five seasons in the Bowl Subdivision, has shown as much progress as one could expect. New Mexico State has been flailing at the game much longer, having last played in a bowl in 1960. Two wins are cause for celebration in Las Cruces; the Aggies were a game short this season.
But in basketball, these schools have much better pedigrees. They have combined for 41 NCAA tournament appearances, 12 Sweet 16s and two Final Fours. Both went to the NCAA last season, with the Aggies finishing 26-9.
Two nice basketball programs, plus Western has America's coolest mascot, the furry blob named Big Red. I'll take 'em.
Memo to Marshall fans, and this isn't going to be nice: Quit wailing about wanting to get out of Conference USA. Unless you want to turn independent for some reason, there is nowhere to go.
And never, ever, look yearningly to rejoin the Mid-American Conference. There is zero tolerance in this space.
I remember distinctly the immense disrespect for that league 10 years ago by MU followers, and the near-desperation to get out of that league. There was good reason, too - then as now, the MAC was a league overrun by lightly followed programs, whose fan bases spent more time and energy rooting for Ohio State or Michigan.
Dix Stadium at Kent State had plenty of good seats available. Yager Stadium at Miami (Ohio) ran out of food during a Marshall visit, selling still-frozen pretzels. Toledo announced impossible attendance figures. Akron had the Rubber Bowl, the dingiest place on Earth. You can't buy Bowling Green gear at the Bowling Green Walmart. Eastern Michigan ... why?
And then the old, old-school Herd fans, those who attended MU in the late 1960s and early 1970s, never really wanted to re-enter the MAC in the first place, except to exact football revenge on the above schools. (That story is too long to rehash here.)
Conference USA was the favored (realistic) destination, even with Cincinnati and Louisville heading elsewhere. I've often thought the Herd landed Louisiana Tech's spot in the 2005 realignment because Bob Marcum and power broker Chuck Neinas were not strangers.
This much is certain: There was much lobbying from Marshall to get into C-USA.
MU is stuck, if you want to call it that, for a number of reasons: The Marcum administration fell into a state of inertia, the NCAA sanctions took a nagging toll, Mark Snyder's teams couldn't win the big game and fans didn't always put their money where their big mouths were.
If you soured on the program and scaled back your support in the past five or so years, congratulations! You're part of the problem.
This season, C-USA had a down year and the MAC looked pretty good. These things are cyclical: Hell may freeze over solid before two top-25 teams play in the MAC title game again.
In this round of realignment, C-USA is taking on some lesser-regarded, even unestablished programs. But mark my word, the league will be clearly better than the MAC again in no time.
Besides, C-USA champ Tulsa would punch BCS buster Northern Illinois in the schnoz anyway.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.