TCU Daily Skiff Friday, February 13, 2004
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Mountain West advantage
Shift in conferences will leave C-USA trailing
TCU’s move to the Mountain West Conference should be beneficial for football and women’s basketball.

By Matt Turner

The Conference USA the Horned Frogs belong to today is not the same conference it will be leaving behind in 2005.

Departing with the Frogs, albeit to different digs, will be every former conference basketball champion and all but one former football champion since TCU arrived in C-USA two-and-a-half years ago. Replacing the crème of the C-USA crop are five schools from less-heralded conferences.

Other teams leaving C-USA are Louisville, Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette, South Florida, Army, Charlotte and St. Louis. Meanwhile, Tulsa, Rice, Southern Methodist, Central Florida and Marshall are the replacements.

Athletics director Eric Hyman said the competition level the Mountain West Conference offers seems to be a more stable situation for the Frogs.

“Stability. I’m looking for stability,” Hyman said at the press conference announcing the move.

And looking at the MWC’s track record, stability appears to be what the Frogs will be getting.

Not only did MWC football teams go 2-0 this season against C-USA teams, they also had a 24-18 record against non-conference opposition. According to college football expert Rich Tellshow’s Web site, those figures were good enough for a 55.6 average strength of schedule in the final Bowl Championship Series rankings.

C-USA, on the other hand, went 24-25 against non-conference foes, despite having a much easier 82.2 strength of schedule average.

Tellshow’s Web site shows the MWC was the seventh best conference in college football last season with a 61.1 average team BCS ranking.

C-USA was 10th, posting a 71.3 average ranking. If TCU had been in the MWC last season, C-USA’s average would have been even higher and the MWC’s lower, providing greater separation between the two conferences.

The Liberty Bowl this season proved the MWC’s possible dominance over the C-USA.

In the battle between the champions of the two conferences, Utah beat Southern Miss17-0.

Head coach Gary Patterson said the MWC has quality programs and plays good football, but it is hard to say how the conferences will compare in 2005 due to leagues fluctuating every year.

“We haven’t played anybody yet, so I don’t know,” he said.

Women’s basketball should also benefit from the mountain scenery, head coach Jeff Mittie said. He said the MWC has been rated higher than C-USA four of the last five seasons, and they typically send a fair number of teams to the NCAA Tournament.

Last season, six MWC teams went to postseason tournaments, including four to the NCAA Tournament.

“It is a very strong conference,” Mittie said. “I anticipate a shift in conference powers soon and the Mountain West will be one of the top leagues in the nation.”

This is a down year for the MWC in women’s basketball, however. The conference is currently the 13th ranked conference in the Ratings Percentage Index, while C-USA is seventh.

TCU’s addition to the MWC, along with the loss of three of C-USA’s current best four teams, should help offset that difference in the future.

In fact, when realignment occurs, C-USA will retain only one of its NCAA Tournament qualifiers, Tulane, from the past two seasons.

C-USA has made a name for itself in men’s basketball over the last few seasons, but that too is about to change. All but one of the conference’s NCAA Tournament qualifiers the past two seasons are leaving for other conferences.

Despite having six teams in the top 50 of the RPI this season, only two of those schools will remain members of C-USA after realignment.

Louisville and Cincinnati, two of the high-ranked C-USA teams leaving, are the conference’s only men’s basketball teams ranked.

In contrast, the MWC has no teams in the Top 25.

But that does not worry head basketball coach Neil Dougherty.

Dougherty said while the current top teams in C-USA are better than the top teams in the MWC, the MWC is more competitive overall when comparing the quality of the athletic departments and their respective budgets.

He said the MWC will be much stronger than the new C-USA.

“That’s kind of a no-brainer,” Dougherty said.

He said his team’s eventual success will depend on how quickly they can get a feel for their new conference foes.

“We get a little older and a little wiser every day.”
 
 
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