Over the last couple of months, conference realignment has significantly altered the future college football landscape.
Arguably no conference has felt that more than Conference USA.
The league already has lost six schools to the American Athletic Conference — Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA — and is reportedly in danger of losing three more to the Sun Belt Conference.
In an official statement Friday, though, Conference USA announced it is committed to remaining a viable FBS league.
“We have a strong core of members to build around and are continuing to work to strengthen our league as we move forward,” Conference USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “There are several institutions interested in joining Conference USA, both across FBS and FCS, some of whom we’ve already met with in person. Every step we take will be deliberate, strategically sound, and intentional.
“We will take the necessary time to add future members that will be the best fit from an athletic and academic standpoint and allow prospective institutions time to complete their process. We continue to believe in the regional concept and will look to incorporate that into our structure and scheduling. There are certainly many questions out there, but a great deal is happening behind the scenes. When appropriate, we will release more information, though out of respect for those involved, we will continue to operate outside of the public space.”
Who might Conference USA add to stay afloat?
Per Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, the conference is in discussions with Sam Houston State, New Mexico State and Tarleton State, among others.
Conference USA is actively pursuing multiple avenues to expand and stay afloat. Among the schools they have been engaged with are Sam Houston State, New Mexico State and Tarleton State. There’s an effort to fortify the Western flank of C-USA that got gutted by the AAC.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) October 22, 2021
Sam Houston State, located in Huntsville, Texas, plays in the Western Athletic Conference (SHSU was formerly in the Southland Conference) and is the No. 1-ranked FCS team in the country. The Bearkats won the delayed 2020 FCS national championship in the spring, defeating South Dakota State.
Tarleton State, meanwhile, is located in Stephenville, Texas, and also plays at the FCS level, in the WAC.
New Mexico State is an FBS independent in football and competes in the WAC for all other sports. NMSU was a member of the Sun Belt from 2014 through 2017, before becoming an independent in 2018.
The three schools offer Conference USA a chance to rebuild its western presence, per Thamel, after UTSA, North Texas and Rice announced their future departure for the AAC.