2021 has become the year of conference realignment, and, it appears, the next dominoes in that story have fallen. Multiple industry sources are reporting that the American Athletic Conference is on the verge of adding six additional schools this week from Florida Atlantic, Charlotte, North Texas, UTSA, Rice, and UAB with a formal announcement expected as early as this week.
All six of those institutions currently reside in Conference USA. With those pending departures, CUSA is down to just eight football playing members in Marshall, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, Florida International, Old Dominion, UTEP, Louisiana Tech, and Southern Miss. It is only a matter of time until CUSA makes the necessary moves to fill the blow the most recent news has delivered them.
Brett McMurphy, who joined ASOR for an exclusive interview to discuss Liberty and realignment just a couple weeks ago, published an article on Tuesday outlining the updated news and he gave a lot of praise to Liberty.
“The biggest winner in the latest round of conference realignment musical chairs is independent Liberty,” McMurphy wrote. “The Flames will be a top target of C-USA and/or the Sun Belt.”
The Flames have seen a tremendous rise over the past couple of years, particularly on the football side, under head coach Hugh Freeze. Liberty has made two consecutive Cure Bowl appearances in their first two seasons of being eligible to compete for a bowl game. The Flames had a remarkable 2020 season, finishing with a 10-1 mark following wins over ACC opponents Syracuse and Virginia Tech and defeating previously unbeaten Coastal Carolina in the 2020 Cure Bowl.
“There’s been a lot of conversations going on,” Liberty athletic director Ian McCaw told ASOR in an exclusive interview Tuesday morning. “We’ve certainly tried to be active in terms of exploring options that we think would be best for Liberty long-term, and we think that could be joining a conference, it could be remaining Independent football and continuing to play in the ASUN. Our responsibility is to do what’s best to serve Liberty and look ahead to the future and determine what we think is best. We’re trying to put ourselves in position to provide the best future possible for our athletic program.”
McCaw, who’s full interview will be part of the ASOR Podcast this week, also had strong words for why Liberty would be an attractive addition to a potential conference, like the SunBelt or Conference USA.
“If you’re looking for a program to be unsuccessful, don’t call us, that’s not the direction we’re heading,” he stated. “We would be the wrong school to contact. If you’re looking for a program with upward mobility and a commitment in resources and a strong trajectory, that spells Liberty. I think we’re going to be in a position that if you want to be competitive, we would certainly have a program to closely evaluate.”
Just last month, McCaw told ASOR that a regional, mid-Athletic FBS conference would make sense for a number of schools. He continues to share that idea.
“A regional, mid-Atlantic FBS conference would make a great deal of sense for many schools,” said McCaw. “We’ve got a concentration of some really good FBS programs in this part of the country. If something like that could be achieved, it would make a great deal of sense.”
Check out the full interview with Liberty AD Ian McCaw below.