Conference USA tied for tops in membership

Associated Press photo by Tim SharpLouisiana Tech football coach Skip Holtz speaks with reporters at the  Conference USA football media day Wednesday in Irving, Texas.
Associated Press photo by Tim SharpLouisiana Tech football coach Skip Holtz speaks with reporters at the Conference USA football media day Wednesday in Irving, Texas.

IRVING, Texas — Many odds and ends from C-USA’s 18th annual media day:

Conference USA joins the Atlantic Coast Conference as the Football Bowl Subdivision’s largest leagues for 2013. Both have 14 members and will play championship games in December. The makeup changes again before the 2014 season as East Carolina and Tulane leave for the American Athletic Conference. Pittsburgh and Syracuse departed from the former Big East Conference to raise the ACC’s football membership to 14.

Louisiana Tech and the Green Wave meet in the Bulldogs’ inaugural Conference USA game at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12 in Ruston in a national telecast on the new Fox Sports 1.

Holtz talks about Tech

Tech coach Skip Holtz was one of the more enthusiastic coaches at media day.

“We lost 31 seniors and nine starters on offense from that 9-3 team last year,” Holtz said. “That’s a pretty good blow, but our current seniors have accepted that position of leadership and are receptive.

“As for moving from the Western Athletic Conference to Conference USA, we’re just ready for the dust to settle. This is such a better geographical location for our players, fans, alumni and media, as far as team travel and rivalries.

“I really think it’s going to keep helping recruiting, and (C-USA commissioner) Britton Banowsky and (C-USA senior associate commissioner) Alfred White could not have been more helpful in our move.

“Next year, we’ll turn another page when East Carolina and Tulane leave, but we’ll still have the championship game — and, even better, six guaranteed bowl bids in conference. Just having two in the WAC last year really posed a problem.”

Louisiana Tech was the only nine-win team nationally eligible (not under NCAA sanctions) not to receive a 2012 bowl berth.

‘Conference of coaches’

FAU, FIU, Middle Tennessee, North Texas and UTSA joined the nine Conference USA holdovers from the 2012 season for the first time at media day.

Many observers said C-USA is becoming a “conference of coaches” with the likes of Larry Coker at UTSA, McCarney, Holtz, Doc Holliday at Marshall, Tulane’s Johnson, Rick Stockstill at Middle Tennessee, and the “dean of coaches,” David Bailiff at Rice. Bailiff enters his seventh year in C-USA competition.

Coker won a national championship at Miami in 2001. Holtz guided East Carolina and USF to multiple bowl games. McCarney rebuilt the Iowa State program before moving to Florida as an assistant and then UNT. Holliday took Marshall to a 2011 bowl.

Johnson is widely respected for his recruiting and football knowledge. Stockstill guided MT to three bowls from 2006-10. Bailiff led Rice to a 33-14 thumping of Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Tech watching south La.

Louisiana Tech is making south Louisiana a priority for recruiting. Tech already has former area standouts in OL Zeke Alexander of Southern Lab, RB Lyle Fitte of South Plaquemines and OL Stephen Gibson of Shaw, among others, on the 2013 roster.

Wave’s strong La. presence

Tulane’s 2012 team sported 43 Louisiana residents — one of its highest totals in years — and Johnson credits Louisiana contacts with families uprooted by Hurricane Katrina and people moving to the Crescent City with a larger local base for Green Wave recruiting.

Super conference talk

Banowsky deflected comments about possible “super conferences” among the top 64-75 FBS programs nationally in coming months with the new College Football Playoff after the 2014 season. He talked about stability among the remaining embers of C-USA for 2014. Old Dominion and Charlotte join C-USA as football members next season.

Walker update

Tulane continues to accept notes of support and give updates on the condition of Devon Walker, who suffered a cervical neck injury at Tulsa in the second game of 2012. The website is tulanegreenwave.com/ot/devons-den-blog.html.