Multiple reports are saying what I projected last night by crossing some streams -- Conference USA will invite FAU and Middle Tennessee State to join the conference in 2014.
This not only means the Shula Bowl revives after a year in suspended animation, but FIU breathes a sigh of relief across the board. Spreading a conference all over the map creates travel time and money nightmares for the schools on the edges. It does the same for all the other schools during basketball and volleyball seasons when a school being 600 miles from the nearest conference mate defeats the ease of using the "travel partner" arrangement in scheduling.
I don't understand any pouting over playing FAU in football. FIU doesn't have much tradition. What rivals do the Panthers have that stir their fan base? Or the players? They're not staying in the Sun Belt, so the Western Kentucky dislike will fade. Central Florida? For reasons that rank as pettiness, FIU's not playing the University of Miami any time soon. Might as well keep developing something with the Division I school in the metropolitan area that'll play you. What's the point of one more home game against an opponent most of the fan base doesn't care about (remember that Akron home opener attendance?) or one more road game you can't reach by an easy drive?