The music finally stopped. All of the chair shuffling when it comes to conference realignment over the last few years has finally have come to an end. North Texas has a seat, a bigger seat at a bigger table with the move to Conference USA. Football was the driving force behind all of the moves from top to bottom. So let's take a look at how the move to C-USA will affect the Mean Green.
National exposure- Conference USA gives North Texas the opportunity to be seen on the national level like never before. C-USA had five bowl tie-in's last season and with the possibility of the BCS coming to an end, the bowl market could become a full-fledged free for all.
Being in C-USA allows North Texas to partner with its new schools and existing bowl partners and potentially add more to the lineup.
"Who wants to sit around at home during the holidays and watch teams play, I certainly don't," said North Texas coach Dan McCarney. "Family time is great, but I like family time around bowl games and Conference USA has tremendous bowl tie-ins."
The second part of the national exposure equation is simply TV. In 2011 Conference USA announced a new TV agreement with Fox as its primary broadcast partner, which included broadcasting at minimum 20 regular season football games a year. And believe me that matters.
"Kids want opportunities to be on television and to go to bowl games and Conference USA just enhances all of those things for all of us," said McCarney. "C-USA has tremendous bowl tie-ins and great television exposure and all of those things are important when we sit down to talk to young men and recruiting."
The C-USA TV package had nearly 70 football games broadcast nationally or regionally in 2011. The networks were CBS Sports Network, Fox Sports Net, FX, ABC, ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN U, CSS and others. That doesn't include ESPN3 games or other potential television partners. Suffice to say, you won't have any excuses for not being able to watch North Texas anymore.
Recruiting- This is the life blood of all programs. Coaches lives revolve around recruiting, it's a 24/7 non-stop part of their routine
"When you sit down and talk to young men, they want a great degree, especially mom and dad, and they want the chance to play in front of great crowd," said McCarney.
The move to C-USA slides the Mean Green up the perceived food chain of college football. Being able to sell recruits on a number of things - TV, bowl games, in-state competition - all adds up to an advantage that North Texas hasn't had since, dare I say the Hayden Fry era of the Missouri Valley.
The other part of recruiting that matters is perception. In the state of Texas where high school football is king, what league you play in and who you potentially play matters.
"There isn't any other place in the country that has better high school football than the state of Texas," said McCarney. "We are all recruiting many of the same young men and now when they choose to with each of us in the state of Texas, they get to continue playing against those guys like they did many times in high school and that's always fun. It's just a great opportunity for all of us in the league."
North Texas hasn't had a conference mate in the state of Texas as a Division I-A/FBS football school since 1974, and that was West Texas A&M.
The Mean Green now has three conference foes in Texas, the most since 1956 when North Texas was a member of the Gulf Coast Conference. That year North Texas won a share of the league title by beating McMurry, 23-7, and Abilene Christian, 20-7, then earning a 7-7 tie against Trinity to win a share of the league with a 2-0-1 conference record. UTEP, UTSA and Rice sound a little more appetizing than McMurry, Abilene Christian and Trinity these days.
Oh how things have changed.
Rising Up - Off the field, North Texas has received the battlefield promotion it so desperately sought for many years. But the hard work is just now beginning.
"Conference USA has so much respect from around the country and there are six or seven teams that regularly go to bowl games," said McCarney.
How much success have C-USA teams had? Tulane was perhaps the first team to crash the BCS party in 1998 when they finished at 12-0 and No. 10 in the nation. Since joining the league in 2005, Tulsa has won 61 games and been to six bowl games. That includes a win at Notre Dame.
Southern Miss ended Houston's shot at a BCS bowl game by winning on the road and capturing the C-USA title this year. The Golden Eagles finished the year 12-2 and ranked 19th in the nation. FIU knocked off Louisville on the road and went to back-to-back bowl games. Louisiana Tech was the WAC champion and was a whisker away from beating TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl.
That's just a small sampling of the success had by C-USA schools. The point is, North Texas has some work to do just to catch up.
"Now it's up to us and some of the other teams that have not been going to bowl games in a long time to be a part of that experience," said McCarney. "Being in C-USA is such a great opportunity and I'm excited about it. There's no question in that being around different parts of the country that Conference USA has a tremendous amount of national respect from coaches and players."
North Texas started to turn the corner last season with five wins, including a win over Indiana at home and a 4-2 mark at Apogee Stadium. The Mean Green has one more year in the Sun Belt Conference before moving into C-USA, but the work to elevate the program has already taken a huge step forward with the move to Conference USA.