Conference USA on Tuesday sent a letter to American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco primarily seeking support for regionalization of three Group of Five conferences in the wake of increasing instability amid conference realignment.
C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod and CEO board chairman Neal Smatresk (North Texas president) addressed the letter to Aresco and AAC chairman Michael Fitts (Tulane president), president of Tulane,
The letter, obtained by CBS Sports, calls conference realignment an “inflection point to reimagine a more regional, student friendly and sustainable model for our conferences.”
CBS Sports reported Saturday that C-USA presidents were set review a proposal regarding the benefits of regionalization from league advisor and former Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. Both AAC commissioner Mike Aresco and Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill told CBS Sports they were against the idea before hearing the details.
The plan calls for schools from C-USA, the AAC and the Sun Belt to be reorganized by region. The redundancies of C-USA, AAC and Sun Belt membership are clear with the conferences each having members in many of the same states.
Following the aforementioned Monday meeting with league presidents, C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod and CEO board chairman Neal Smatresk (North Texas president) sent the letter to Aresco and AAC board chairman Michael Fitts (Tulane president) on Tuesday.
“Let’s just at least talk,” MacLeod told CBS Sports of her conference’s actions. “We’re all so dang competitive.”
“Our presidents and our chancellors and our ADs have been talking about regionalization long before this current wave of realignment,” she added. “Just the wear and tear of flying across the country and just missed time on campus of them being a student [is a factor].”
The letter states: “Rather than continuing to perpetuate the pattern of universities the pattern of universities moving from conference to conference in pursuit of modest media revenues, we see an opportunity to develop a more sensible and sustainable conference model.”
As it stands, the AAC has leverage to fill in for three schools lost to the Big 12 — Cincinnati, Houston and UCF — while potentially adding a fourth team. The league has been at 11 programs after UConn dropped out to go independent in football. Aresco could take three or four schools from C-USA and te Sun Belt or go “big” and add as many as eight, according to industry sources. Both moves would further destabilize the other leagues in realignment.
The MAC and Mountain West would not be involved.
There are several athletic directors in the AAC and Sun Belt who favor regionalization. If nothing else, it would save on travel expenses in an age when budgets are stressed to their limit. For example, C-USA currently extends from the eastern seaboard to El Paso, Texas.
“The value proposition will likely be tied to serving our fan bases by creating and investing more in natural geographic rivalries,” the letter states.