North Texas Daily

COLUMN: Conference USA needs a new leader

COLUMN: Conference USA needs a new leader

COLUMN: Conference USA needs a new leader
March 05
12:00 2021

When the University of North Texas joined Conference USA in 2013, the Mean Green were looking to start a new chapter for athletics. North Texas had been struggling for years in the Sun Belt, which at the time was one of the worst conferences in college football.

C-USA was one of the most respected Group of Five conferences in the NCAA and the Mean Green had high hopes upon entering the conference. After more than seven years, North Texas is once again in the worst conference in college football as C-USA has sunk to the bottom of the NCAA. The Mean Green has had an uphill climb to Division I relevancy ever since joining the NCAA. North Texas started off as a Division I-A university however, after suffering from athletic debt the Mean Green was ruled unable to financially compete at the Division I-A level.

The university was demoted to Division I-AA where they played in the Southland Conference and won two conference championships in 1983 and 1994. After receiving sufficient funds, the Mean Green rejoined Division I-A and began on the road to redemption. Following four years in the Big West, North Texas joined the Sun Belt conference in 2001. Head coach Darrell Dickey led the Mean Green to four straight conference championships from 2001-2004 but the team was unable to maintain its dominance and fell off the map shortly after.

Despite accomplishing virtually nothing since 2005, the Mean Green were able to prove to the NCAA and C-USA committee they no longer belonged in the struggling Sun Belt conference, and joined C-USA in 2013 during the NCAA conference realignment. Prior to the 2013 realignment, C-USA was one of the most heralded Group of Five conferences in college football. The conference hosted the likes of the University of Houston, the University of Memphis, the University of Central Florida and Southern Methodist University — all schools that have gone on to become elite Group of Five powerhouses. These schools were able to find success under C-USA, making the conference very enticing to North Texas athletics. Fans and athletic officials saw the move to C-USA as the future of North Texas athletics.

However, the anticipated success has not turned out as expected. Since the 2013 realignment, C-USA has sunken to the bottom of the NCAA Division I ranks. North Texas ultimately left the worst conference in Division I college athletics in the Sun Belt, to join the next soon-to-be worst conference in Division I college athletics in C-USA. The Sun Belt is coming off a historic college football season that saw many of their teams crack the Associated Press Top 25. Coastal Carolina University, the Univesity of Louisiana-Lafayette and Appalachian State University all dominated the FBS last season, upsetting numerous Power Five schools. C-USA on the other hand had just one school (Marshall University) rank in the Top 25 all season.

It’s no secret the skill and competition level between these two conferences has swapped, and this stems from a lack of future planning. When the Sun Belt lost schools like North Texas and Florida International University, they immediately looked to replace them with programs that were trending in the right direction. C-USA took the easy way out and added schools that could make an immediate impact and bring in the most amount of revenue.

C-USA’s demise ultimately falls under poor management. The conference was realigned in 2013 with very little attention on the futures of the teams competing and conference officials – and commissioner Judy McLeod continues to make head-scratching decisions every year.
In 2018, Conference USA signed a $200,000 media deal with CBS Sports and Facebook. Some games are broadcasted on CBS Sports but the majority of C-USA games are streamed through Stadium Sports on Facebook.  While using Facebook to stream athletic events may be good for high school the platform is most certainly not optimized for college – especially Division I sports. C-USA has received minimal media coverage from this new Facebook deal, and only a few hundred fans actually stream the Facebook coverage per game.

On paper, this deal financially benefited C-USA. However, it is a pitiful way to watch college athletics and many fans who do not have access to Facebook or other streaming services are missing out on their favorite teams. C-USA has one of the worst media coverages in all of NCAA Division I sports. Teams hardly receive any exposure due to minimal coverage on Facebook — a social media website not meant for streaming collegiate athletics.

When North Texas joined C-USA in 2013, the athletic department looked to join one of the most up-and-coming conferences in the NCAA. Poor management and leadership have resulted in the conference falling back to the abyss of the NCAA. New management needs to step in and take over soon before promising schools like North Texas find themselves in another decade-long rut.

Featured Illustration by Pooja Patel

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Milo Mihaltses

Milo Mihaltses

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