Barry Coker: Conference Realignment Junkie

Editor’s note: This is from Barry Coker, whom you can find on twitter at @TheBarryCoker

It’s the absolute filthiest of guilty pleasure. Selling out on long time friends and associates, all so you can make more money and gain a higher profile. Leaving others to scramble and struggle while you don’t even look back. So is the world of conference realignment, and I love it. Hello, my name is Barry Coker and I am a conference realignment news addict.

So what defines this addiction? Checking message boards every hour from your phone, despite what is going on in your life. Work, family, responsibilities, they all play second fiddle until I make my rounds on the group of websites I need to check in. Waiting and obsessing for tweets from beat writers and groups like Inside Runner Sports. Hanging on the words, from a Bobcat of all people, of great news breaker WAC Jack from Feeling the rush anytime news actually breaks, and chasing that high every hour thereafter. Only thing that sucks is that news has been drrrraaagggiiinnngg on this topic.

Obviously, the big topic in the world of UTSA and realignment has to do with the recent reports of a campus visit from CUSA/MWC and that UTSA is shooting up their list. The question that no one has had any answers on is how long this list will be.

Here is a summary to what has been reported and strongly rumored. A few weeks ago, San Jose State and Utah State received visits from the conglomerate. This past week, UTSA and Louisiana Tech received visits, and word is UTSA impressed. There was some talk that Texas State received some sort of a visit as well, perhaps to see the former Aquarena Springs and Wonder World or whatever the hell you do in that shit-hole town. It is widely thought that North Texas and Florida International are already in the mix and have been for a while.

It also looks like the two conferences will stay separate, at least for a while and have some sort of agreement. For some reason, all this is some giant secret and no one has broken any reports on what the plan is. Twenty four makes so much sense logistically. They were talking about having semifinal games and then a championship. Pretty straight forward, you split the 24 into two sides and have two 6 team divisions. This is a common practice and had been seen recently with the Big 12 and SEC before their numbers changed. Then you would just have the two teams on each side meet up for championship. I think everyone understands that scenario, as it is the easiest.

To me, the one that makes the second most sense is 18, with two divisions of 9. Everyone plays everyone in their division and one conference championship game between the two divisions. Another easy scenario.

Twenty and twenty two are difficult to understand. At twenty, seems like your too small for the four division idea, and twenty two isn’t divisible by four, so I have no idea why 22 seems to be some sort of preferred number. Unless, and this has been reported, the MWC side wants to keep place holders in case Boise State and San Diego State want to come back.

So we wait, and no one seems to know what the hell is going to happen, only that it will be wrapped up around June. Oh and that the WAC is going to die. Oh and that Idaho seems to be completely fucked by this whole thing.

Hopefully UTSA makes the cut. The good thing is that there is a backup plan: the Sunbelt, and it’s not that horrible of an option.

Some scenarios that may work out:

If this thing goes to 24:

West side picks up UTEP from CUSA to get to nine. They would then add SJSU and Utah State, the only true candidates west of Texas. That gets to eleven; UTSA would certainly round that out to twelve.

Pros: Good basketball conference. MWC sent four teams to NCAA tournament last year, and only one of those teams is leaving. UTEP could make a good rivalry.

Cons: Not one drivable game in the bunch. If I were to go to El Paso, my ass is flying.

If it goes to 20 or 22:

I think at these numbers, UTSA may be looking at being on the Conference USA side of this. In name alone, this would make Goddess Hickey happy, as this was her stated goal from football day one.

Pros: Geographically this is awesome. Drives to Rice and North Texas. In state rivals, an Oklahoma rival and Louisiana rival(s).

Cons: Single bid league for basketball most years. Lower profile schools, including directionals and privates. Mountain West side has highest profile schools in four states and the second highest in two; CUSA side is a lot uglier in that regard.

If it goes to 18:

Although this makes a lot of sense to me, I don’t think it will happen. If it does, seems UTSA would not be included given the widespread inclusion of UNT and FIU.

UTSA and Texas State have the advantage of being right in the middle of the two conferences which makes them candidates for both leagues.

There is a lot of speculation that this alliance concept won’t work out, and that’s fine. The key is that UTSA gets aligned with these highest of the lower tier, so when the airport meetings get scheduled UTSA is invited. I still believe that all this insanity will one day settle down and we will get back to regional conferences. Hopefully by that time UTSA will be a high profile program that would be included.

So that is what is going on, from the addicted. It has been truly amazing what UTSA has done the last few years. Lynn Hickey is absolutely incredible and I am sure other programs will start trying to woo her away. I am grateful to have her on my schools staff as long as possible.

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Editor extraordinaire, UTSA grad student. Twitter