Old Dominion president Hemphill "optimistic" about attracting regional members to C-USA

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Posted at 11:54 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-20 00:07:39-04

NORFOLK, VA (WTKR)- Tuesday saw six Conference USA athletic programs officially apply for membership with the American Athletic Conference, according to ESPN. This would lead to a loss of nearly half of C-USA's institutions, but Old Dominion president Dr. Brian Hemphill seems committed to sticking with the Monarchs' current league, at least for now.

Hemphill released a statement on Tuesday, noting that a number of Conference USA schools were having discussions with the AAC and that Old Dominion officials are tracking and monitoring those discussions and activities.

"We are also actively engaged in a number of conversations to ensure the long-term viability and attractiveness of C-USA for ODU, especially our student-athletes and dedicated fans," he said.

UAB, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Texas-San Antonio and Rice are all expected to be granted membership into the AAC, according to a Yahoo Sports report that broke on Monday night. The news pushed questions to the forefront regarding Conference USA's ability to sustain itself or rebuild. Hemphill sees opportunities to add new athletic programs that can benefit the Monarchs.

"By working together with our partners at C-USA, we are optimistic about attracting additional members with a regional benefit to ODU, resulting in less travel and greater competition, for many years to come," the Old Dominion president said in his statement.

Conference USA features a wide footprint, stretching from Virginia to South Florida to West Texas. Last week, Conference USA was set to propose a regional realignment strategy to the AAC and the Sun Belt, but officials at both leagues expressed little to no interest in considering any proposals of that nature.

Old Dominion director of athletics Wood Selig was very much in favor of a regional realignment model, citing the saving of travel costs, less missed class time for student-athletes, creating more regional rivalries and getting more fans in the stands as reasons why the strategy would make sense. Selig discussed his thoughts on the proposals during an interview with News 3 last week.

The departures leave Conference USA with eight member institutions: Old Dominion, Western Kentucky, Marshall, Florida International, Middle Tennessee, Texas- El Paso, Louisiana Tech and Southern Mississippi.