Long rumored to be the next Conference USA member to move to the Conference Formerly Known as the Big East, Tulsa is on the verge of doing just that.
Following up on speculation that began gaining momentum in January, ESPN.com reports that Tulsa will indeed join the soon-to-be-renamed Big East. An official thumbs-up vote from that conference is said to be “imminent,” with an announcement of Tulsa’s addition for 2014 coming by next week.
This report comes over two months after Tulsa World wrote that “[t]he university’s switch from Conference USA membership to Big East Conference membership seems to have graduated from a possibility to a likelihood.” It was reported in late January that the lone holdup for Tulsa’s move was the finalization of a new television contract for “the Big East”; that hurdle was cleared last week.
Barring an unexpected development, Tulsa would give “the Big East” 11 members for the 2014 season – Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Temple, Tulane, UCF, UConn and USF — with that number going to 12 with Navy’s arrival in 2015. Of those, nine would be former members of Conference USA, the lone exceptions being Navy, Temple and UConn.
It also means that Conference USA could be in the market for another member. Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF are all leaving that league this year, to be joined by East Carolina and Tulane in 2014. That would leave Conference USA with an uneven 13 members (I think): former WAC schools Louisiana Tech and UT-San Antonio; former Sun Belt schools FAU, FIU, Middle Tennessee State and North Texas; Old Dominion and UNC-Charlotte, moving up from the FCS level; and current members Marshall, Rice, Southern Miss, UAB and UTEP.
So, just where would Conference USA look to get back to an even number of members? The Sun Belt Conference, probably. Of course, that conference is expected to announce the additions of four new members over the next couple of days, additions that would get it to 12 members and allow it to hold a league championship game.
Yep, conference expansion is a tremendous ongoing development for the game of college football.