Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic joining C-USA in ‘14

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What remains to be determined is how quickly both schools start competing in C-USA.

The Sun Belt recently added a $1 million exit fee, and Massaro said the Blue Raiders could switch conferences sooner than July 1, 2014, if it works for both the Sun Belt and C-USA.

Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson said he was disappointed in the two schools leaving but that his league is very well positioned for the future.

“I remain very optimistic that the momentum that has been created in the past six months will continue to grow,” Benson said. “The continuing 10 members of the SBC are committed to excellence and I am confident that the SBC will take advantage of these latest changes in the landscape. As I have stated many times in the past six months, the SBC will be a major player in the future, especially within its geographic footprint.”

It’s unlikely this is the last of conference realignment.

With several Conference USA members leaving that league for the Big East, and now that Sun Belt members are heading to C-USA, fans need to stay tuned.

“There are several outstanding universities that have indicated interest in joining the SBC,” Benson said. “While we have conducted research on these universities in the past six months, we will now focus on identifying the ones that will be the best ‘fit.’ for the conference.”

Conference USA already had lost Memphis, Houston, Central Florida and SMU to the Big East earlier this year, prompting the league to add Charlotte, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Old Dominion and Texas-San Antonio starting in 2013. Middle Tennessee tried to join C-USA in that round of expansion and just missed out.

The Big Ten started up realignment again Nov. 19 by luring Maryland from the Atlantic Coast Conference followed by Rutgers leaving the Big East a day later. The ACC replaced Maryland with Louisville on Wednesday. The Big East landed Tulsa on Tuesday in all sports with East Carolina leaving Conference USA in football only.

Banowsky called the continuing realignment disturbing and volatile. He said it destroys rivalries, creates distrust among universities with all the “commercial influence” on conferences. But there is no avoiding it.

“They’re strong forces, and so change may be the new norm in our industry,” the C-USA commissioner said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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