C-USA Basketball To Give NT Opportunities
Conference USA has come calling and North Texas is on the move in 2013 to a new league. With so many moving parts and pieces to the puzzle, a lot of different programs will be impacted. Both basketball programs have already had active off seasons, and this just adds more intrigue. The Mean Green starts C-USA play in 2013-14, so what will the impact be for coaches Tony Benford and Mike Petersen?
Name Brand Competition - When you look at the basketball lineup for each division, how could you not start getting a little excited? Think about this: Danny Manning will be coming to the Super Pit every year. Tim Floyd will be bringing UTEP in every season, which, oh by the way, has won a national title. The 14 members on the men's side have combined for 98 appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Women's teams have captured national titles.
Suffice to say, the basketball league is going to be rugged competition for both the men and women, but also create an excitement level that hasn't been seen in Denton for decades.
"We want to take this program to the next level and this is the ultimate game changer," said Benford. "With us going to Conference USA, it's the game changer we need to get more quality recruits and be able to sell to the guys that they are playing against great players. I think we can go in and compete with the Big 12, the SEC, and ACC schools because of this affiliation with Conference USA."
Great players. Such as Karl Malone, who played at Louisiana Tech. Tim Hardaway and Nate Archibald were at UTEP. Paul Pressey at Tulsa. Is it too early to toss in Tony Mitchell at North Texas? You get the point.
A Recruiting Edge -Like every sport in college athletics, if you can't recruit, you can't win. Getting the top-flight athletes is what all coaches are after, and they looking for every possible advantage. Moving up to C-USA is a new edge.
"It gives us a conference where, from top to bottom, you have really quality women's basketball programs," said Petersen. "You look at the programs right now, you have programs that are really good now, but they have also been historically good. You're going to have a conference where you have teams with Final Fours and national championships. There aren't a lot of conferences in the nation that can say we have teams in our league that have won a national title."
And there is the crux of the matter. Petersen has been all across the map and knows what a move like this can do for recruiting. When you show a recruit the teams they are going to be playing against, they can probably go home and take a peek at those teams on ESPN, Fox Sports, or see their rank in the top-25 polls. The brand name, the competition, the exposure, and the location all matter.
Location is the other edge. Now when coaches recruit kids and their families, they can sell the fact that they are just a four hour drive away from road games. Can't make road games? No problem, just watch them on TV.
Last season C-USA had over 70 nationally and regionally televised men's games. Fifteen regular season men's basketball games were shown on the CBS Sports Network, in addition to the C-USA Championship quarterfinal and semifinal games, while the championship game was on CBS. The women's side had 14 games show on FSN or CBS College Sports.
"The kids that come here are going to have the opportunity to get coverage in the major media outlets in Texas, the Midwest and the south and that's huge," said Petersen. "The media outlets that will cover Conference USA will be really significant so from promotions, marketing, and from an exposure for our student athletes, it will be tremendous."
Getting To That Next Level - Multiple bid league. C-USA ranks 8th in the nation when it comes to number of NCAA tournament bids handed out all-time to conferences. North Texas has only three, but now the specter of having a great season spoiled in the conference tournament and missing out on the big dance is greatly reduced.
"We can go in now and sell a conference that's going to get great exposure and a conference that is going to get multiple bids to the NCAA tournament," said Benford. "Kids want to play against really good players and I think Conference USA gives them that opportunity. Night in and night out we are going to play against quality teams and again, kids want to play against the best in great venues and I think here in the metroplex its really going to help us with recruiting."
Benford comes to North Texas from Marquette, where getting to the NCAA tournament is expected. Benford envisions the same thing at North Texas. Taking the program to the next level is more than just going to the NCAA tournament now. It's about advancing and making a name.
C-USA offers North Texas that opportunity but, as Benford said, you won't be able to take any nights off in this league.
The expectations and stakes have been raised for both programs, but with that have come new opportunities to move each program farther than ever before.