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The Herald's Welcome to Conference USA Primer

Today is FIU's first day as a member of Conference USA.

Everybody seems to be doing “getting to know you” little intros as C-USA remakes itself today. FIU, FAU, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, North Carolina-Charlotte, Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio officially join the league as Central Florida, Houston, SMU leave. Next year, Old Dominion comes in with football while East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa leave. Charlotte's football team, which begins play this season in FCS, will join C-USA in 2015

Let's be real -- Southern Mississippi brings no more sexy to FIU fans than Arkansas State. The only way Rice draws at Camp Mitch is with Chicken as a travel partner. To Marshall’s “We…Are…Marshall!” FIU could give a sullen “We…Are…Ambivalent.”

With that in mind, here’s my Getting to Know Conference USA primer:

FAU, North Texas, Middle Tennessee State, Western Kentucky: They’ve been in the same conference with FIU for a decade. Don’t be afraid to pay attention. As Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes sang...


East Carolina, Tulsa, Tulane: What do you care? They’re leaving next year.

Alabama-Birmingham (UAB)

Where: Birmingham, Alabama (DUH).

Nickname: Blazers.

Nearest major city: We’ll count Birmingham even though it’s been the home of exactly one major league professional team (the World Hockey Association’s Birmingham
Bulls, which included the “Baby Bulls,” a group of good young players that had future Hall of Famer Michel Goulet).

Known for: Getting research money. UAB consistently ranks among the top one percent of schools nationally in federal research money received. 

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Softball. Four consecutive NCAA touranment appearances and just made the Super Regional for the first time.

Why you should hate them: Because they get to have a cool name like “Blazers,” while
FIU’s perfectly cool original nickname “Sunblazers” got ditched for the dumb, pedestrian “Golden Panthers” now shortened to the even-more pedestrian “Panthers.”

Alums you’ve heard of: Roddy White, NFL wide receiver; Graeme McDowell, 2010 U.S. Open champion; Dr. Deidre Downs, Miss America and OB-GYN.

Alums you haven’t heard of: Melissa Springer, photographer; James DeLucas, biochemist who flew on the space shuttle.

Charlotte (University of North Carolina-Charlotte)

Where: Charlotte, North Carolina (again…DUH).

Nickname: 49ers.

Nearest major city: If you have to think about it, please leave now.

Known for: The school claims it produces more start-up businesses than any college or university in the nation. Doesn’t say what percentage succeed.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Women's basketball. Charlotte made the third round of the Women's NIT last season and adds Ciara Gregory, the only Parade All-American coming into C-USA. 

Why you should hate them: The tobacco industry. Duke Energy (nee Duke Power). All the money injected into that state from the nefarious actions of those two industries and you really need more reasons to despise anything from North Carolina?

Alums you’ve heard of: Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell, who led UNC-Charlotte to the 1977 Final Four, then became a Boston Celtics player and color commentator; singer Clay Aiken; sportswriter Joe Posanski.

Alums you haven’t heard of: Robert A. Niblock, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Lowe’s; David Hauser, failed CEO of Fairpoint Communications and former CFO of Duke Power; Roger Canaff, national advocate to eradicate violence against women and children.

Louisiana Tech

Where: Ruston, La.

Nickname: Bulldogs.

Nearest major city: Little Rock, Arkansas. That’s over three hours away. Jackson, Miss. is an hour closer, but Jackson’s metro area population undercuts some music festivals. Unless you’re ready to say Yazgur’s Farm was a major city during Woodstock, Jackson’s not a major city.

Known for: being an oasis of research in Louisiana, which isn’t exactly the Bay Area when it comes to higher education.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: men's basketball. They return their top two scorers from a 27-7 team.

Why you should hate them: Lose a Jonesboro, Ark., gain a Ruston, La.

Techsters you’ve heard of: Hall of Fame NFLers Terry Bradshaw, Fred Dean, Willie Roaf, basketball Hall of Famer Karl Malone.

Techsters you haven’t heard of: Charles and Sam Wyly, entrepreneur billionaire brothers; Will Wright, creator of The Sims; Congressman Joe Waggonner, influential U.S. Congressman and founder of Louisiana’s White Citizens Council.


Where: Huntinton, West Va.

Nickname: Thundering Herd

Nearest major city: Columbus, Ohio. That's two hours, 35 minutes or so.

Known for: Being named after John Marshall, the Supreme Court Chief Justice who made judicial review an important part of the Supreme Court’s role; the 1970 plane crash that killed the entire football team and coaches.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Football. Their defense can't be that bad again -- second-most points per game allowed in the nation -- and they still have Rakeem Cato directing a dynamic offense. Several projections have them as the East Division winner this year.

Why you should hate them: They snatched quarterback Rakeem Cato from FIU’s clutches. They beat FIU in the 2011 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.

Marshall alums you’ve heard of: NFL quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich; NFL star wide receiver Randy Moss; 1960s TV star Soupy Sales; longtime U.S. Senator Robert Byrd.

Marshall alums you haven’t heard of: Verna LeMasters Gibson, first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company; Pulitzer Prize winners Julia Keller and Jack Maurice.

Old Dominion

Where: Norfolk, Va.

Nickname: Monarchs

Nearest major city: Did you know 1.6 million people live in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News area?

Known for: MBAs in maritime, Transportation and Port Logistics Management and a really big ROTC program.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: nothing FIU actually plays above a club level.

Why you should hate them: That name. First, it’s a nickname for Virginia used by a British king. Second, the school’s kind of fronting by using it. The name makes the school sound like some extremely old 13 Colonies Era institution when it’s really a William & Mary spinoff that didn’t award its first degree until 1956.

ODU alums you’ve heard of: FIU women’s basketball coach Cindy Russo; FIU women’s basketball assistant coach Inge Nissen; Hall of Fame basketball player Nancy Lieberman; The Tonight Show band member Tommy Newsom (if you’re old enough to have watched The Tonight Show when Johnny Carson had the desk).

ODU alums you haven’t heard of: Brigadier General Martin P. Schweitzer; Four-star General Ben Griffin; Admiral William J. Fallon, Commander of the U.S. Central Command.


Where: Houston


Nearest major city: See above.

Known for: Being to the old Southwest Conference and the state of Texas now what Vanderbilt is to the SEC and Northwestern is to the Big Ten.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Baseball. Swimming, women's soccer and women's tennis also possible, but we'll stick with baseball. Rice has made going to the NCAA tournament a tradition and just had two pitchers get All-America designation.

Why you should hate them: Their enrollment doesn’t exceed G. Holmes Braddock High and even the school tools haven’t seen anything under an A since explaining spitwad physics in first grade. So losing to them brings on a true inferiority complex.

Rice alums you’ve heard of: Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (Harvard Law ’82, same class as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Fern Watts); Former Secretary of State James Baker; baseball player Lance Berkman.

Rice alums you haven’t heard of: Robert Woodrow Wilson, Nobel Prize Laureate who helped discover cosmic microwave background radiation; Larry McMurtry, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Oscar-winning screenplay writer; a whole bunch of astronauts with more degrees than a circle.

Southern Mississippi

Where: Hattiesburg, Miss.

Nickname: Golden Eagles

Nearest major city: New Orleans, just short of two hours away.

Known for: being one of the top schools as far as number of students studying abroad. Apparently, the sophistication of Hattiesburg fails to magnetize the inquisitive mind.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Baseball. Southern Miss actually tied Rice for the C-USA regular season title in 2013.

Why you should hate them: Look at the first alum you’ve heard of.  

Southern Miss alums you’ve heard of: future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre; musician Jimmy Buffett; Iron Chef Cat Cora.

Southern Miss alums you haven’t heard of: Reggie Collier, the first quarterback in NCAA Division I history to run and pass for over 1,000 yards each in a season; Ralph
Dunagin, syndicated editorial cartoonist whose single panel comic strip ran for 30 years; Major General William H. Yates, owner of a Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and several other medals.

Texas-El Paso (UTEP)

Where: El Paso, Texas (come on, try to keep up…)

Nickname: Miners

Nearest major city: Juarez, Mexico is 10 minutes away.

Known for: Dzong architecture and being advocates for minorities in engineering.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Track and cross country. Nobody mines Africa for runners like the Miners, who've been doing it since current athletes' parents played "Kung Fu Fighting" on 8-track. 

Why you should hate them: Because that Miners’ Pickaxe hand signal looks more like a person with arthritis trying to do the Hook ‘Em, Horns gesture.

UTEP alums you’ve heard of: former Heat player Tim Hardaway; Sam Donaldson, ABC News anchor and correspondent; NFL referee Ed Hochuli; NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Don Maynard.

UTEP alums you haven’t heard of: Charles A Dean, geologist; Jack Handey, Saturday Night Live writer; Robert Windham, professional wrestler known as Blackjack Mulligan.

Texas-San Antonio

Where: San Antonio.

Nickname: Roadrunners (no "Speedipus Rex" though).

Nearest major city: They’re soaking in it.

Known for: growing like Bruce Banner having a gamma radiation rush. They grew by 39 percent to 30,000 students in the 2000s.

Might hurt FIU's feelings in: Women's golf. UTSA's women's golf team has gone to three straight NCAA Regionals. It's a reach considering FIU's conference champions made the Regional last year and have most of the team back, incluging No. 1 Meghan MacLaren.

Why you should hate them:  Former University of Miami football coach Larry Coker wound up there.

UTSA alums you’ve heard of: Kim Spradlin, Survivor winner; Dayna Devon, Extra co-host.

UTSA alums you haven’t heard of: Roxanne Austin, former head of DirectTV; Deanna Raybourn, mystery writer.



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