Most of the conference realignment whirlwind has been charged by college football. So what’s the football landscape look like for Western Kentucky, the new Conference USA and the future of the Sun Belt Conference?
I asked those questions to Brett McMurphy, ESPN college football reporter. Brett was kind enough to take some time Monday and provide some responses by email:
BRETT McMURPHY, ESPN college football reporter
What do you see for the future of football in Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference? “As far as the group of five leagues, Conference USA should rank behind the Mountain West and the soon-to-be-renamed Big East. It should be stronger than the Sun Belt, but in reality it doesn’t matter. Starting in 2014 with the new playoff system, the highest ranked champion from the MWC, Big East, C-USA, Sun Belt and MAC will get an automatic bid to one of the host/access, or major, bowls. So technically it doesn’t matter which league is stronger, it just depends on which conference champion is ranked the highest.”
What are your thoughts on how this move affects WKU financially? “The move to C-USA makes financial sense for WKU because the Hilltoppers will be making a little more in television/media rights revenue. However, it’s obviously not as substantial as the difference in revenue between one of the group of five leagues and, say, the ACC, Big 12, etc.”
In your eyes, what’s next with conference realignment? “The bottom line is the league’s stability depends on the conferences “above” C-USA. If Jim Delany and the Big Ten goes to 16 teams (most likely grabbing from the ACC), then the ACC will take two from the Big East, then the Big East will take two from C-USA, C-USA will take two from Sun Belt and so on. All of the leagues, not only C-USA, are only as stable as the Big Ten. If the Big Ten expands, I think you’ll see some major movements with the SEC and Big 12 reacting by adding schools. That could cause as many as six schools to leave C-USA for the Big East. However, if the Big Ten stays at 14 then I think we’ll finally see some stability for more than a few months.”