GIVE A HEARTY welcome to the five institutions of higher football education joining Conference USA, aka The League of Misfit Schools.
These schools, described below, are vaulting from humble roots into some of the richest 17 years of mid-major tradition you will ever find. And get this: All five have football programs ahead of that at the departing University of Memphis.
(Yes, two of the newcomers haven't played a down of major-college football. As Marshall basketball coach Tom Herrion would say, "You can laugh.")
The five schools are Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Florida International, Texas-San Antonio and North Carolina-Charlotte. They join in the summer of 2013.
(We think Old Dominion will join the fray, once folks there get used to the idea of traveling beyond Williamsburg for road games.)
This quintet will discover a number of benefits of C-USA membership, such as an increase in television revenue (from near zero, generally) to an increase in bowl opportunities (though that BCS access thing is closing) to relative stability (two are escaping the WAC-tanic). Charlotte and UTSA win the best springboard into major-college football since Marshall mashed the MAC.
Fans of the new schools will see better football and will discover that, no, their sports teams won't be shuttling to East Carolina and/or El Paso every week. This is also a great league in which to hire coaches with personality, a checkered past or both.
They'll discover that in C-USA, you don't lose your shirt to play in a bowl. For example, Marshall played in the oft-pilloried Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in the even-more-pilloried Tropicana Field, and had a $54,000 surplus to show for it.
(West Virginia lost $200,000-plus in one of those open-the-vault BCS bowl games? Really?)
So, as Conference USA bids adieu to Houston, Memphis, Central Florida and Southern Methodist, what will Marshall fans see from the newbies? Let's take a look.
Or for North Texas' new Apogee Stadium. Or for FIU's still-in-progress crib. Or for what Charlotte is building. Louisiana Tech has the oldest of the bunch, 44-year-old Joe Aillet Stadium.
(Trivia item: East Carolina was the visiting team in the first game in that venue, 1968.)
Louisiana Tech and North Texas carry long histories across multiple divisions (their alums include Terry Bradshaw and Mean Joe Greene, respectively, so they can't be non-historic).
Tech carries the better pedigree recently, piecing together 10 winning seasons since climbing to Division I-A in the late 1980s. North Texas hasn't had a coach with a winning record since Hayden Fry (1973-78).