Will independence be a thing of the past? These 3 teams are reportedly in negotiations to join a conference
Liberty, UConn and New Mexico State, three of the current seven FBS independents, are in discussions to join Conference USA
Entering the season, there were seven FBS football teams that were classified as independents, i.e. they didn’t have a conference.
That number dropped to six when BYU accepted an invitation to join the Big 12, and it may soon drop even further.
Per Vannini, both Liberty and New Mexico State would join as full members, competing in all sports, while UConn would join only for football.
Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel later reported that while UConn has spoken with Conference USA, Yahoo Sports’ sources say the school and conference haven’t begun negotiations yet, nor are the Huskies primed to join the league soon.
UConn officials have spoken to Conference USA about the prospect of joining the league, per sources. But sources say there’s been no negotiations related to UConn joining C-USA, nor is any decision imminent.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) October 29, 2021
Last Friday, Conference USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement that the conference was looking to expand in the wake of losing eight teams to other conferences — six to the the American Athletic Conference and two to the Sun Belt Conference.
“We have a strong core of members to build around and are continuing to work to strengthen our league as we move forward,” 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.”
Per Vaninini, the additions of UConn, Liberty and New Mexico State would be the first step for Conference USA as it strives to reman a viable FBS league.
“By adding three schools that currently have independent football programs, the league would begin to restock with (FBS) members,” Vannini wrote. “The potential additions of these three schools would be just the first step as the conference works to reshape itself, and the league will have significant resources to grow its programs through a combination of exit fees from departing members and entrance fees from new members.”
Current Conference USA members (excluding the eight whose departures have been announced) are:
- Western Kentucky
- Middle Tennessee
- Louisiana Tech
Per Thamel, Marshall all but holds the fate of Conference USA in its hands. The Thundering Herd have been reported to be a Sun Belt target, but if they stay in their current league, Conference USA should be able to successfully expand.
“The pivot point moving forward for C-USA expansion will be Marshall’s decision,” Thamel wrote on Twitter. “ If they stay in C-USA, it’s likely that Liberty would join Conference USA with New Mexico State as the seventh and eighth teams.
“If Marshall goes to the Sun Belt, things are less certain. It’s likely that C-USA would look to the FCS for at least one program. Sam Houston State appears to lead the pack of FCS schools that Conference USA is evaluating.”