Another shuffle, another wait

USF is used to waiting when it comes to the conference shuffle. The USF football team endured two years as a Division I-A Independent while waiting for admission to Conference USA in 2003.

The Bulls learned their patience will be tested again as conference commissioners at the NCAA convention this weekend failed to come to an agreement that would have allowed USF and the other four C-USA teams to join the Big East this year.

“I think it would have been good to go sooner than later, and it would have been good for USF athletics,” women’s tennis coach Gigi Fernandez said. “But now teams have an extra year to prepare. It doesn’t really affect women’s tennis one way or the other, though.”

What it does mean is that USF juniors will experience their last year of eligibility as players in C-USA. It also guarantees DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and Cincinnati will bump shoulders with the Bulls next year as lame-duck members before moving all their athletic programs to the Big East in the fall of 2005. Neither Marquette nor DePaul field football teams.

The big hold-up centered on C-USA’s desire to be compensated for the loss of its five members. According to an report, C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky was seeking $6-8 million from the Big East and nearly $10 million total as compensation for losing five schools to the Big East and Saint Louis and Charlotte to the Atlantic 10. Army, which is only a C-USA member in football, deserts the league to become an Independent again this year.

“Britton was looking to us to help him with the loss of his teams a year early,” Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese told “He laid out a plan, but we couldn’t make it work. It’s too big a financial step to take. That’s why we’re shutting it down. The ACC will be 12 in football and have a championship game in 2005. That’s when we’ll be 16, too.”

In 2005, SMU, Rice and Tulsa will leave the Western Athletic Conference for C-USA and the league will welcome UCF and Marshall from the Mid-American Conference to replenish its membership.

Because the C-USA schools can’t leave until ’05, Boston College stays in the Big East until then, leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference with 11 members when Miami and Virginia Tech join this fall.

Scheduling was also seen as a big obstacle in allowing the teams to make their moves.