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Conference realignment: C-USA talks about expanding to 16 teams

Conference USA is considering adding two extra schools to move to 16, as the mid-major league tries to add revenue. Additional teams could come from the Sun Belt Conference.

USA TODAY Sports

Conference USA isn't going to sit back and let realignment happen around them: they're considering expanding to 16 teams in hopes of staying ahead of the curve, per league commissioner Britton Banowsky.

With Western Kentucky sliding in to fill in the spot created by Tulsa ditching for the nearly-as-patriotically-named American Athletic Conference, C-USA stays at 14 teams. But they're looking at going bigger, per CBS:

"We've modeled it at 16, and it does kind of create some divisions that are a little more geographically connected," Banowsky said. "We haven't acted on it. I think personally a larger conference is better because you get some efficiencies, you get the benefit of a bigger group. We don't want to lose our identity in the process. We're just kind of moderating the growth at a pace where people are comfortable. It could be folks are just comfortable (at 14)."

Sixteen is a little bit of an unwieldy size for a football conference. The WAC tried it, with league members stretching from Hawaii to Houston, dividing into four "quadrants" split between two divisions. That failed as eight teams split apart to create a more geographically centered group that became the Mountain West Conference.

Large numbers might not make for pretty football schedules -- even if you expand the league slate to nine or 10 games, you're playing teams from the other division in your conference once every four or five years -- but as leagues try to consolidate power, it's helpful. More teams would result in more revenue, and with mid-major conference membership already fluctuating year by year -- I mean, NINE new teams are joining the C-USA in some capacity over the next few years to replace seven leaving schools -- there isn't much of a claim you can make that adding teams would ruin league identity. If the C-USA can stay slightly more logistically centered than the WAC was, they might be able to pull off 16.

Where the two additional teams the league covets would come from is a more intriguing question. The Sun Belt has been steadily poaching FCS teams, and while the C-USA doesn't seem set to make that move yet, they could grab some more established Sun Belt squads.

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