Six members officially set to leave Conference USA

Old Dominion awaits next step in realignment
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Posted at 4:13 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 16:13:03-04

IRVING, TX (WTKR)- Six Conference USA schools were officially announced as future members of the American Athletic Conference on Thursday, stripping C-USA of nearly half of its current member institutions.

As expected, Charlotte, UAB, Florida Atlantic, Rice, North Texas and Texas-San Antonio will leave Conference USA and join the AAC. According to a release, the date at which the programs will begin as programs in the league has yet to be determined. Rumblings of the six schools making the switch began publicly on Monday night in a Yahoo Sports report.

The move drops Conference USA down to eight member institutions, including Old Dominion, though the league is reportedly already looking at programs to bring in. Yahoo Sports reported that the conference will attempt to lure James Madison and Liberty, which would create solid in-state conference rivals for the Monarchs.

Meanwhile, The Athletic reported on Wednesday that the Sun Belt Conference is now looking to expand and has targeted Old Dominion, Southern Mississippi, Marshall and James Madison.

Old Dominion and James Madison are former CAA rivals. The Dukes have thrived at the FCS level, winning two national championships, but seem primed to make the jump to the FBS level.

The Monarchs are not commenting beyond president Dr. Brian Hemphill's statement released on Tuesday in the wake of the initial Yahoo Sports report. In that statement, Hemphill addressed the other programs' discussions with the AAC and seemed to indicate that Old Dominion is committed to Conference USA, at least for now.

“As a C-USA member, ODU officials are tracking these discussions and activities," his statement read. "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.”

Hemphill also noted the possibility that the conference will add members that more geographically friendly to ODU.

"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."

Conference USA's footprint currently stretches from Virginia to South Florida to West Texas. Last week, Monarch director of athletics Wood Selig told News 3 that he's in favor of a regional realignment model that would provide opportunities for less travel, less missed class time for student-athletes, more rivalries and more fans in the stands.

Old Dominion football began Conference USA play in 2015, after making the jump from the FCS level. The Monarchs have played in one bowl game, winning the 2016 Bahamas Bowl over Eastern Michigan. Men's basketball opened play in the league during the 2014-2015 season and instantly became a contender in the conference. The Monarchs won the C-USA Tournament in 2019.

ODU women's basketball also began a C-USA schedule in 2014-2015. The Monarchs advanced to the conference championship game in 2016.