So far four athletic directors have said they would like or are interested in some sort of shuffle of schools between CUSA and Sun Belt that would result in tighter geography.
Another wrinkle was added with a recent Bloomberg article indicating that colleges and even the NFL are struggling to find available team charters. The NCAA has been struggling with the issue during the men's and women's basketball tournaments.
AState's Terry Mohjir confirms that the Red Wolves have been having trouble finding charter agreements as well.
This should mean the cost of travel is going to increase, but with the NFL having problems there may be cases where no price is going to make a jet charter available.
Everything points to greater pressure to become more regional.
Do I think anything is imminent? No. An orderly transition isn’t likely either. You don’t go to the hassle of realignment just to pare down travel costs and try to create match-ups that will generate more fan interest. Basically, you want to WIN the realignment not just rearrange the living room.
That means a breakaway is more likely. Four of the five high resource leagues were the result of breakaways (SEC and ACC from the Southern, Big XII from the Missouri Valley, Pac-12 from the Pacific Coast) and in the G5, the MWC was a break from the WAC which born out of a breakaway from the Border and Skyline conferences, CUSA was the partial merger of Great Midwest and Metro and the Great Midwest was a Metro and Sun Belt breakway.
With bowls being contracted for six years and the CFP having a 12-year contract and various TV deals to work with, the issue isn’t one that is easily solved.
While I don’t think anyone is going to do a straight “pure” geographic move I do think it is useful to look at the closest schools to those talking geographic realignment.
The following is a list of the 11 closest schools to Old Dominion, Middle Tennessee State, Southern Miss, and Arkansas State since all four have had comments on the idea of geographic realignment. Using 11 closest because that gives you 12 counting the school.
Coastal Carolina 320
App State 347
Georgia Southern 498
Georgia State 564
Outside of the 11 closest you have USM at 941 miles and AState at 987 miles.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE
Georgia State 217
Georgia Southern 422
That covers all but ODU which is 706 miles. ULM just misses by 3 miles.
La Tech 238
Georgia State 376
North Texas misses by 42 miles and Georgia Southern by 49. Old Dominion is 942 miles.
La Tech 298
Georgia State 453
Rice misses by 56 miles, Appalachian State misses by 114 miles and Georgia Southern by 154. ODU is 979 miles
If AState, ODU, MTSU, and USM were looking to form a league together (no reason to think that is the case, just tossing them together for the sake of argument) there is a group of schools that appear on every school’s list of 11 closest schools
UAB, WKU, Georgia State, Troy, and USA all fit the geographic profile of the four schools.
UAB is in CUSA West but only two division members are within 600 miles. They would also seem to be the most cost-sensitive school in CUSA since they are under a mandate to operate athletics with no increases in university expenditures for athletics.
The list for AState and USM is almost identical the only difference being that Rice just misses being on AState's list and North Texas just misses being on USM's list. The only schools on MTSU's 11 closest that aren't on AState or USM's list are Marshall, Appalachian State, Charlotte and Georgia Southern