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Conference Realignment News, Should the MAC pounce

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WHAT HAPPENED:

So, in case you missed the latest drama, apparently, the AAC is ready to move and Buffalo is not a part of the picture. Instead, they are adding six teams, all from CUSA. (I'll put on the tinfoil hat later)

Another thing that came out last night, through the rumor mill, is this.

  • TV deal stays the same for current AAC members (7 million per year)
  • New members only get 2 million per year, but that will rise over time until the contract is over in 2031

What did the AAC accomplish with this move?

  • They added a lot of Markets. Charlotte, Miami (I think that’s FAU, right), Dallas Metro, Added another in Houston, San Antonio
  • In doing so they seriously put a crimp in any Texas ideas that the mountain west was getting
  • Reduced Conference USA to a husk in terms of membership (8 teams)
  • Added a partner for USF, a partner for ECU
  • Kept the 7 million per year to keep other teams not named Memphis from jumping at the next offer (cause they are the only AAC member on a bigger conferences radar)

Overall, this is as good a job at making lemonade out of lemons as one could expect. It’s surprising because these teams are by no means the consistent strong programs in CUSA.

This is similar to the last moves made by CUSA who decided to bring up so-so programs for their markets. But it didn’t work well, maybe it will be better for the AAC.

Who's Behind The Curtain (Tinfoil Hat time)

So who was hurt by these moves?

  1. CUSA is either going to get poached more, by the Sun-Belt and MAC (more on that later) or be forced to reload with FCS teams for the second time in a decade.
  2. The MWC is not really hurt, so much, but they are kind of stuck now, with nowhere to expand unless they want to call up FCS and/or try to raid NIU? I mean UTSA is always there.

Want to know what these two conferences have in common?

They are the only group of five football conferences NOT under contract with ESPN at the moment. The sports network owns the TV rights to all MAC, AAC, and Sun-Belt games, and this move assure those three conferences are the only ones with real growth potential?

This is also why I think Buffalo was not one of the six teams asked, that would damage an ESPN property (MAC) and I don’t think ESPN was going to allow the sweetheart deal to go through on this for the American if they took a hit somewhere else.

Next Moves?

I suspect that ESPN expansion is not done with conference USA. The Belt had already become a peer and now with a terrible “TV Deal” and only 8 teams in the conference the Sun Belt may set it’s eyes on Marshall and one more school. No idea who.

This would bring the Belt up to 12 and put CUSA down to 6.

What should the MAC do?

Honestly staying where they are and not moving would not be the worst move for the MAC at this point. With Buffalo off the menu it seems as if our snug 12 team league is as well off as ever.

However, nothing ventured, nothing gained so here goes ( in order of what I’d want to see happen)

  • The MAC should go after Marshall and WKU, these two teams slightly stretch the conference's footprint, but they do it in the right direction.
  • Assuming we cannot get Marshall, who may not want to try the MAC again, go for WKU and MTSU as a pair. MTSU may seem odd, but as a pair with WKU they fit nicely, once again pulling the conference footprint just a slight bit to the south without wrecking the travel footpring
  • If you can do either of the above, and you still want to go a little harder, try to Pull ODU and invite JMU all sports. Once again a slight pull to the south/east but they pair well and bring in markets and decent potential.

Pulling this off would give you

(If you get Marshall)

  • MAC East - Buffalo, Akron, Kent, WKU, ODU, JMU, Marhsall, Ohio
  • MAC West - NIU, BSU, Miami, Toledo, Bowling Green, EMU, CMU, WMU

(If you get MTSU instead of Marshall)

  • MAC East - Buffalo, Akron, Kent, ODU, JMU, Ohio, Toledo, Bowling Green,
  • MAC West - NIU, BSU, Miami, EMU, CMU, WMU, MTSU, WKU

The only way any of this works though is if you get ESPN on board to promise the MAC that the now configuration either holds the per team value or increases it.

Another advantage of 14 or 16 teams is that maybe you can convince ESPN that MACTion should be just twice a year for each member, once at home and once on the road. You have seven or eight conference games per week and could load up the mid-week slots with just three or four of those games.