C-USA art

Conference USA officials, including North Texas president Neal Smatresk, sent a letter to their counterparts in the American Athletic Conference on Tuesday urging the league to join its efforts to realign leagues at the Group of Five level on a regional basis.

Conference USA officials reached out to their counterparts in the American Athletic Conference on Tuesday in an effort to spark a new round of realignment at the Group of Five level in college athletics.

C-USA’s presidents met Monday to hear a proposal by former Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and former Big 12 commissioner Jim Weiberg that called for C-USA, the Sun Belt and the AAC to realign on a regional basis.

C-USA hired Delany as a consultant to look at conference realignment issues.

C-USA sent a letter to AAC commissioner Mike Aresco and the rest of the league’s leadership pitching the plan.

“Rather than continuing to perpetuate the pattern of universities moving from conference to conference in pursuit of modest media revenues, we see an opportunity to develop a more sensible and sustainable conference model,” said the letter, which was obtained by multiple outlets, including Sports Illustrated.

The latest round of conference realignment was set off by Texas and Oklahoma agreeing to jump from the Big 12 to the SEC. The Big 12 responded by adding Houston, BYU, Cincinnati and Central Florida.

Houston, Cincinnati and UCF are all members of the AAC, which is expected to respond.

“Our remaining schools are unwavering in their commitment to competing and succeeding at the highest level and we will not allow external factors to put a ceiling on our potential,” Aresco said in a statement shortly after the Big 12 expanded. ‘We remain unified and resolute and will consider all of our options as we move The American into our second decade and beyond.”

The Mountain West also issued a statement that left open the possibility it would expand.

“Close collaboration will continue as we identify the best path forward for the Mountain West within the evolving landscape of intercollegiate athletics,” a statement from the conference’s board of directors said. “That will include aggressively pursuing strategic initiatives and amplifying our collective brand.”

C-USA teams would be among the top targets for either league should they look to expand.

C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod and North Texas President Neal Smatresk made the case that teams competing at the Group of Five level would be better off realigning on a regional basis in their letter to the AAC.

Smatresk, who is the chair of C-USA’s board of directors, did not respond to a request with UNT officials seeking comment.

News of C-USA’s meeting first surfaced over the weekend when officials from both the Sun Belt and the AAC told CBS Sports that they had no interest in realigning on a regional basis.

UNT officials have long said that they believe the school is in good position should an opportunity to move to a more attractive league arise. They also acknowledge that jumping to C-USA from the Sun Belt in 2013 has helped foster the program’s growth.

UNT has played in bowl games in four of the last five seasons and won a game in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the first time in March, when the Mean Green upset Purdue in a first-round game.

UNT has also dramatically improved its facilities over the last decade.

“We need to make sure that the power brokers, my colleagues and Neal’s colleagues throughout the country understand what’s happening at the University of North Texas,” Baker said this fall. “We need to let people know about the growth that has happened academically and athletically.”

C-USA officials’ pitch to the AAC could have an impact on where UNT ends up should the leagues agree to the realignment proposal.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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