Another division 1-A college athletic conference held it’s annual football media day yesterday. This was not one of the “Power 5” conferences, but Conference USA served notice that it wouldn’t mind being the “Power 6th” with an impact announcement of it’s own, one that officially puts Conference USA ahead of the “Power 5” in at least one area.

Earlier this week Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, at his league’s football media session, indicated that once the NCAA turns over the majority of it’s legislative power to the “Power 5” next month, their first move will be to announce payments to scholarship athletes that cover all the costs of going to college as well as paying them an additional stipend. Yesterday Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky announced his league is already prepared to take that step, a move supported by the 14 presidents of the league, which includes such prominent all sports institutions as Alabama Birmingham, Marshall, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, Rice, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion and Texas El Paso.

The “Power 5”, the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC and Pac 12, may be about to assume control of the NCAA, but no moss has grown on Conference USA, which is already ahead of most of those leagues in development toward the 16 team footprint determined by the “Power 5” and now beats all of them to the all cost payment dynamic, at an expected additional cost per institution of $500 thousand a year.

Last summer the “Power 5” announced that preference for 16 teams while opening the dialogue over full payments to athletes. This summer Conference USA beat them to the punch, seemingly a response to another suggestion from the “Power 5” commissioners, that, in the future, they may determine there is room for a sixth league atop the NCAA power structure.

The American Athletic Conference holds it’s football media meetings next week and already it faces long odds of maintaining any position of prominence in the NCAA. If the “Power 5” do determine there’s room to expand to a “Power 6” Conference USA just took a giant step ahead of the AAC, increasing the urgency for transfer to a “Power 5”, or “Power 6” league, for any program that wants to be a prominent part of the future of college athletics.

With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray…


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