Sources: MAC ‘Likely’ to Add Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee In Latest College Football Conference Realignment Move
Nic Antaya/Getty Images. PicturedL The MAC logo on a down marker.
The Mid-American Conference is “likely” to add Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, perhaps by the end of this week, pending approval by the MAC presidents, sources told The Action Network.
The addition of Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee would give the MAC 14 schools.
The move would also serve as the latest blow to Conference USA, which will have recently lost 11 of its 14 members.
In the past two weeks, six C-USA schools — Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA — left for the American and three schools — Marshall, ODU and Southern Miss — left for the Sun Belt.
Ultimately, the MAC’s decision will be based on financial implications, sources said.
“This isn’t a transformational move, but right now conference realignment boils down to ‘survive and advance,’ ” an industry source said. “The MAC can’t make this move if all of its members are taking a haircut [receiving less media rights revenue than they do currently].”
MAC to be Among 6 Conferences With At Least 14 Members
This will be the latest change for the MAC, which has lost four football members in the past 20 years. In 2005, full-member Marshall left the league. Also, three football-only members played their final seasons in the MAC in that span: UCF (2005), Temple (2012) and UMass (2016).
The moves of Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee are expected by the 2023 season, sources said.
“You can’t add someone and not be kept [financially] whole,” a source said. “This is more a long-term play for the MAC, than a short-term play.”
In 2023, the MAC will be among six conferences with at least 14 members, along with the American, ACC, Big Ten, SEC and Sun Belt.
The Big 12, after the departure of Oklahoma and Texas, will have 12 members, but Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has said his league may make even more moves in the coming years.
Since this summer when OU and Texas announced they were headed to the SEC, there have been 18 schools that have changed conferences, including FCS member James Madison, which currently is in the process of joining the Sun Belt.
MAC Will Benefit from Western Kentucky & Middle Tennessee
As far as the MAC, the addition of the two Conference USA schools will improve the football product.
Since leaving the Sun Belt for C-USA in 2014, Western Kentucky has gone to six bowls in seven years and won C-USA in 2015 and 2016. Middle Tennessee has gone to bowls in five of the last eight years since joining C-USA under long-time coach Rick Stockstill.
It’s unknown how the MAC divisions would be impacted with Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. The MAC is currently split into six-team East and West divisions.
The MAC's current division split is:
- East: Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, Miami (Ohio) and Ohio
- West: Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan.
What’s Left for Conference USA?
The loss of Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee leaves Conference USA with only three members: FIU, Louisiana Tech and UTEP. This will make it even more challenging for C-USA to survive.
The league is talking with multiple FCS schools that could make the jump to FBS and is also considering FBS independents UConn, UMass, Liberty and New Mexico State as possible football-only members.