1. Cincy, Tulsa, Central Florida, South Florida, ECU, SMU, UConn, and Houston all are very talented and growing football programs. Though I agree that The American isn't exactly the bees knees, it will absolutely be better than CUSA of the past few years. I'm sorry but I don't know where you're coming from with that one. Why are you saying that the CUSA of the past is better than the American which will essentially be CUSA's best programs plus UConn and Cincinatti. That makes no sense.
2. As far as basketball, Richmond is a defensive liability and a streaky shooter and I don't blame Lebo at all for playing PRC who is a great defender. I think next season Lebo will probably extend Richmond's minutes as he has surely matured as a player but when the season started he didn't deserve more than 20 minutes a game. Maurice Kemp was a skinny slasher with no shooting stroke and a poor FT shooter when he came to the program, Lebo developed him the right way over time. He had to put on weight and improve his shooting before playing big minutes (which he did). In his Freshman-Sophomore form he was a role player. You're point of the loss of Kemp/Paul/Sampson are good, but Lebo has recruited big bodies that should help, and the transfer of Terry Whisnant, a 6'3" PG former starter from Florida State who was a 4 star recruit coming out of high school ought to help just a bit. Kemp is a big loss, but I think Ty Armstrong will suprise and impress a lot of people as a #1 scoring option. Make no mistake, saying your not sold on Lebo means you really may not understand how bad this program truly historically has been. He's a damn good coach and he's all in on ECU. And he's recruited well too.
3. You mentioned something about The American's TV Contract. I don't care how much it's worth compared to anyone else. C-USA's TV contract is worth half of The American's. That's the reason that this move is important. Money. Double. The. Money. More money for athletic programs.
4. Not liking Ruffin McNeill is straight up weird, but I'm going to put it on you just not knowing anything about him. ECU Alum that lives and dies by this program. The guy is in love with Greenville and ECU, and he's a terrific recruiter with tremendous respect and notoriety across the country. If you don't like him, you don't like ECU.
- Cinci was a better program in CUSA v1 than it is today. The basketball at Cinci is a shell of what it was under Bob Huggins. It isn't a perennial top 10 program anymore. Marquette is no longer there. Louisville is no longer there. There is some talent in the AAC, but there aren't any consistent powers. People like to say any program that has had some recent success a growing program, but in reality, pretty much all the programs in the AAC are going to be up and down. They'll have their magical years and they'll have their normal years where they're neither good nor bad. And for schools like Tulane, Temple, UCONN, and Memphis, being bad is pretty regular on the football field. Everyone else falls solidly in the mediocre category. The best program in the AAC is Cinci and they're pleading to get out of the conference. They will when WVU finally cries loud enough and gets the Big XII to add a travel partner for them.
- I'm well aware of Richmond's talents and liabilities, but his offensive talents far outweighed his defensive liabilities. I've watched Richmond for years, even back when he was at Rhode Island and even a bit in HS. ECU had a ridiculously good +/- when he was on the floor. The new players you are talking about are freshmen, hard to rely on them to contribute much immediately. With Bryant Stith as the new assistant at Old Dominion, I wouldn't really count on keeping Stith all four years anyway. Whisnant was a great pickup, but he can't play for you this year. ECU has a chance to be really bad this year, taking them back to square one because they have no basketball history to rely on.
- The TV contract isn't double and more than anything it doesn't get the AAC much exposure because you're about the 4th or 5th option on ESPN. CUSA teams get $1.2 million a year ($1 million a year after Charlotte and ODU join for football) compared to $1.8 in the AAC, but our contract is with Fox Sports and will have pretty good treatment on the new Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 channels in prime time. I don't really count on CUSA maintaining such great placement after a few years when the contract expires and Fox has the option to renegotiate things, but we're sitting well for the next 3 years (and the AAC defectors are responsible for making up any difference in television contract value for an additional 2). Making an extra $800,000/yr isn't going to have any real impact on an athletic department when you are talking budgets of $30 million or more each year.
- I don't dislike McNeill, I'm just not 100% confident in him as a head coach. I've seen several ECU fans say the same thing. You can be an alum with all the respect and recruiting ability in the world, but if you're not a great coach it won't matter.
Overall the AAC is definitely a better conference than CUSA, especially for basketball. I'm not arguing otherwise. The AAC is still a conference full of teams that nobody really gives a damn about on a national level though. The teams that left ultimately did not move up, they moved on. They all ended up in exactly the same situation they were in before realignment started. Before realignment CUSA was the 7-8th best conference in football each year (battling with the MWC most seasons for best non-BCS conference). Now they'll still be there battling with the MWC for best non-power conference while being excluded from all the important bowl games just like CUSA, SBC, and MAC teams.
Nobody that moved really won in realignment. It only looks that way because of the schools that were added to CUSA. If all the schools in CUSA had stayed put (which nobody could have expected them to do initially because it looked like a great deal for UCF, Houston, and SMU), then they'd be in basically the same position they are today. ECU, Tulsa, and Tulane had to jump poo because at that point they would have been left behind, but like I said, they moved on to stay exactly where they were at before rather than falling behind. It was a step forward, but not a step up.
Eventually there will be a time when all the non-power conference teams are excluded from bowl games that matter and the AAC will be right there with everyone else. There are a few schools left with some good political pull in the MWC and the AAC and those schools will be accommodated in exchange for not filing lawsuits. Cinci, UCONN, Memphis, BYU, some of the better MWC teams, and MAYBE Houston will get an invite to the few remaining spots in a 5x16 conference set up, but ultimately the rest will be left behind to wither on the vine like the other diseased fruit in the Group of 5 conferences.