C-USA sets football divisions for 2013
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Athletic directors of the newly reorganized Conference USA left Miami on Wednesday, having put together the blueprint for a unique 2013-14.
And Marshall football fans have an opportunity to visit south Florida this fall. Twice, if they're up for it.
The directors set the football opponents for the 14 schools playing the sport, and determined the basketball format for what will be a 16-team league.
Four teams are leaving for the Big East, with eight coming aboard from four different conferences. What had been a dependable scheduling rotation had to be restarted from scratch - in football, for example, the 12 teams on the 2005-13 lineup completed the same four-year rotation twice.
The division setup will remain the same, geographically, with East and West divisions. Marshall remains in the East with rivals ECU, Southern Mississippi and Alabama-Birmingham, with Middle Tennessee, Florida International and Florida Atlantic joining the division.
Tulsa, Texas-El Paso, Rice and Tulane remain in the West, joined by Louisiana Tech, North Texas and Texas-San Antonio.
As before, division rivals will play each other, this time making up six of the eight conference games. Each team will have two cross-division games.
With that, Marshall was assigned home games against ECU, UAB, Southern Miss and UTSA, the third-year program coached by Larry Coker. The road games will come against defending champion Tulsa, Middle Tennessee and, yes, the two Florida schools.
For basketball, a 16-game single round-robin format was adopted, all teams playing each other once. There will be one other "mirror" opponent to play home-and-home, and MU was assigned its new Interstate 64 rival, Old Dominion.
MU athletic director Mike Hamrick was pleased with the setup, and Thundering Herd officials have looked forward to a reduction in travel and a few more drivable football games, such as the trip to Murfreesboro-based Middle Tennessee.
"The thing for Marshall is, in this new Conference USA, we become more of a regional conference, with Charlotte, Old Dominion and Middle Tennessee close, plus we get a chance to go to Florida twice with FIU and FAU, which will always be in our division."
The formats will be in place for a single season, as Tulane and East Carolina will migrate to the Big East and Old Dominion begins to compete for the championship in football. Charlotte's infant football program will begin C-USA competition in 2015.
The league is trying to position itself for the coming realignment of the bowl games, and for television renegotiations in three years. Hamrick sees good prospects ahead, despite the defections.
"Middle Tennessee beat Georgia Tech. Louisiana Tech won nine games," Hamrick said. "Florida International we beat in the bowl game, they just had some back luck last year, and Charlotte is pouring millions of dollars into their program. Those are large schools in metropolitan areas.
"Our TV contract comes up in three years, and we've got to position ourselves to have potential for a good TV contract. We've actually gained households, and that's important from a television standpoint."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.
2013 C-USA football divisions
MU's 2013 C-USA football opponents
Dates, times for Conference USA games to be announced
MU vs. C-USA, 2013