MAC says no to expansion after MTSU decides to stay in C-USA
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By RALPH D. RUSSO
The Mid-American Conference announced Wednesday it will stand pat with its membership after examining expansion, just hours after Middle Tennessee State made known it was sticking with Conference USA.
"Following analysis and evaluation by the membership, it has been determined our best interests are served in the conference remaining at 12 full member institutions," Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a statement. "While a number of institutions have expressed interest, we never requested any institution to apply for membership nor did we have a formal or informal vote concerning any institutions."
The decisions by the MAC and MTSU appear to bring an end to a wave conference realignment at the FBS level of Division I that was triggered this summer by the Southeastern Conference inviting Texas and Oklahoma to leave the Big 12 and join the league.
The trickle down led the Big 12 to swipe three schools from the American Athletic Conference, which then turned to Conference USA for six new members. The Sun Belt also added four new schools, three from C-USA.
Middle Tennessee and fellow C-USA member Western Kentucky had explored the possibility of leaving the conference.
MTSU and WKU would have extended the Midwest-based MAC farther south.
But after C-USA announced last week the addition of four new members starting in 2023, Middle Tennessee State decided it was best to stay put in a conference that will now have nine schools, stretching from Virginia to New Mexico.
President Sidney McPhee said in a statement posted on the school website Wednesday that they've watched the Division I landscape for athletics change in the past several weeks. McPhee said MTSU appreciated the interest that other conferences showed in its program.
"Working with our four remaining members, as well as our new partners, Conference USA is poised to rebrand itself as a premier conference in the Group of 5," McPhee wrote.
Commissioner Judy MacLeod said C-USA remains a great fit for Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky with the incoming members.
"We are very pleased that they have decided to reaffirm their commitment to C-USA as we continue to move forward as a conference," she said in a statement. "While several institutions have indicated interest in joining our league, we will use this time to be deliberate and strategic in exploring any potential additional expansion."
Mid-American Conference presidents met Nov. 5 with possible expansion on the agenda and C-USA members Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State as potential options, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league's discussions are private.
That same day, C-USA announced Liberty, Jacksonville State, New Mexico State and Sam Houston State as new members starting in 2023. McPhee said that gives the league a strong footprint in the South and Southwest.
AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
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Updated November 10, 2021