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C-USA Offseason News Update

October 30, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Conference USA Offseason News Update

by Zach Van Hart

No thanks to this whole ACC/Big East deal, Conference USA has become a hot topic around the nation. With so many rumors flying around of who is going where, C-USA is kind of in limbo right now. Even the latest development of Boston College also jumping ship to the ACC throws yet another wrench in the process. We will try to avoid that issue during this round-up, but not before providing a little commentary on the whole issue from one of our Morning Dishes a few weeks ago. Enjoy, and oh yeah, here is all of the other off-season news in C-USA.

(From the Morning Dish, Wednesday, September 24) The Boston Globe is reporting that the Big East will invite four Conference USA schools – Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, and Marquette – to join their conference next month. The plan would add two football schools (Louisville and Cincinnati) to replace the departed Miami and Virginia Tech, plus two basketball schools in DePaul and Marquette, leading to a 16-team conference, with and eight-school football conference. New program UConn would replace Temple, who is departing as a football only conference. The report also said that the Big East would basically need to firehose cash at Boston College to keep them from jumping to the ACC. Meanwhile, The Dallas Morning News is reporting that SMU is in talks to switch over to Conference USA, and that C-USA would be interested in persuading Rice and Tulsa to come with them. This flies in the face of the news from Monday that the WAC was eyeing C-USA schools Tulane, Houston, and TCU. Meanwhile, the A-10 has announced that they will be going after Saint Louis and Charlotte, as soon as the Big East plan is formally announced, expected in November.

What to do with all of this conference mess? Here’s the solution, brought to you by Hoopville. Disband Conference USA. Now we’re sure C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky would not be a real fan of this plan, but it makes sense. The Big East forms their super-conference by grabbing Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, and Marquette. The WAC creates a Central time zone division with the addition of TCU, Tulane, and Houston. The A-10 spreads its geographical wings and gets Charlotte and Saint Louis. And this is Army’s last season as a football-only member.

Who does that leave? Memphis, Southern Miss, UAB, USF and East Carolina. Memphis and Southern Miss can join the SEC, creating another 16-team superconference. UAB can join the Sun Belt, which is already adding Utah State, Troy State, and Idaho for 2005. And USF and East Carolina (both football schools) can join the ACC to create a 13-team conference, enabling the ACC to have a football championship game. The ACC can round itself out by grabbing big-fish-in-little-pond Central Florida or Georgia State from the Atlantic Sun to make it an even number. Meanwhile, the Big East will grab a rogue A-10 school to fill out its roster, after Notre Dame makes the Big Ten an even 12 members.

Conference USA, formed in 1995, served a valuable purpose in transitioning small-time athletics into the major conference alignments seen in this new millennium, but it may have outlived its usefulness. Created during a time of record-new D-I schools and huge transitions, C-USA was an amalgam of the old Metro Conference, the remainder of the Southwest Conference, Sun Belt, and Independents. Then schools can again form under the aegis of “Conference USA” in the year 2015, when mismanagement of superconferences drives schools into smaller, more “user-friendly” conferences.

Meanwhile, since we fired that missive, it appears that C-USA has dedicated itself to make itself relevant after all. The conference has accepted three of the WAC schools into the fold for 2005-06, by adding Tulsa, Rice, and SMU, and just last week invited Marshall to join the conference, leaving the conference with 17 teams, assuming multiple schools jump when the Big East comes calling. C-USA will be a little lower prestige in basketball, but should remain a power by shifting its geographic center a little south of where it is now.


On the coaching front, Dalonte Hill joined the Charlotte staff as an assistant coach. Hill, who played for the 49ers from 1998-2000, has been coaching the Washington, D.C.-based DC Assault Incorporated AAU squad. Hill fills the vacancy left by Kevin Nickelberry, who took a job at Clemson in July, joining Oliver Purnell’s staff. Also, Bobby Lutz had his contract extended for one additional season, through the 2008-09 season.

On the court, sophomore swingman Vincent Grier transferred to a Junior College. Grier averaged 5.1 points and 3.3 boards per game as a reserve last season. He has not indicated which JuCo he’ll attend yet.


Cincinnati was one of the busier teams in C-USA, and none of it was for a good reason. James White, already ineligible until the fall quarter is over in early December, received an additional one-game suspension for participating in the AND1 Tour in Cincinnati.

Armein Kirkland and Eric Hicks were both suspended at times with legal trouble. Hicks has been partially restored back to the Bearcat squad, after being arrested in May on assault charges. It’s been moved down to a misdemeanor and will likely be overturned, when Hicks then will return to the team.

Kirkland was charged for domestic violence, but the charges were later dropped. He has been fully reinstated to the team.

Oh yeah, Rob Flowers left the team and will finish his career at Tennessee State, but he had already completed his undergraduate degree, and is pursuing his Master’s degree at Tennessee State.


The big news for the Blue Demons during the off-season was the hiring of Joe Tulley as director of basketball operations on his Blue Demon staff. However, it was nothing short of a controversial hire. Tulley, who was the DePaul team captain the past two seasons as a player, and led the Blue Demons to the 2000 NCAA Tournament.

The controversial part is that former Southern Idaho assistant Jay Cyriac had been hired to the position, but his status was left in limbo by the NCAA due to his possible connection into the Missouri/Ricky Clemons recruiting investigation when Cyriac was at the College of Southern Idaho.

The big news for the Blue Demons in the past week was that highly-touted freshman Wesley Green would miss the entire season following surgery on his right shoulder. Green, the runner-up for Mr. Basketball in Florida last season with 23 points and 12 rebounds per game, will redshirt this season and have freshman eligibility for the 2004-05 season. The 6-9 forward was expected to contribute right away for the Blue Demons.

East Carolina

And yet more assistant coaching moves. The Pirates addition comes in Dino Presley, who has been coaching basketball for nine years. A native of Philadelphia, Presley served as an assistant coach at Towson each of the past two seasons. Presley assumes the assistant position previously occupied by Richard Morgan who left recently to become the associate head coach at Hampton University. Presley is no stranger to coaching under Herrion. Presley served on Herrion’s staff at Drexel for two years (1997-99) before Herrion left to become the head coach at ECU. He then remained on the staff at Drexel for an additional two years (1999-2001) before moving on to Towson.


Michael Young, part of Phi Slamma Jamma squad, came back to the Cougars as an assistant coach. Young, who is third on the all-time school scoring list behind teammates Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon and was a first-round pick by the Celtics, but bounced around the NBA, CBA and Europe for several seasons before moving to coaching.

Also, as part of the new 2-in-4 rule in college basketball, limiting programs to no more than two preseason tournaments every four years, Houston pulled out of the Great Alaskan Shootout. Numerous C-USA teams were affected by this new rule.


During the off-season, guard Bryant Northern was dismissed from the team for stealing two blank checks from a residence he and a friend were house-sitting and tried to cash them. He made a plea deal in which he plead guilty to two felony counts of theft and one felony count of forgery.

One the bright side, former NBA star and commentator Reggie Theus joined the coaching staff as an assistant coach. Theus played 13 seasons in the NBA and was a two-time NBA All-Star. Theus replaces Mick Cronin, who left to become the head coach at Murray State.


Player wise, senior center Scott Merritt underwent arthroscopic surgery on his injured left shoulder during the summer should be ready for full-contact drills when practices officially kick off Saturday.

Trainer wise, Marquette grabbed a rival’s lead man in Jayd Grossman, who was the trainer for Cincinnati for the past 10 seasons. As basketball staff trainer at Cincinnati, Grossman was head coach Bob Huggins’ go-to guy when the team was on the road.

And otherwise, former Golden Eagle standouts Brian Wardle and Bo Ellis rejoined the program, along with Kyle Green. Wardle was named the director of basketball operations, while Green and Ellis were named assistant coaches.


Sophomore guard Jeremy Hunt had surgery on his left foot at the end of September, which sidelined him for a few weeks. He is not expected to join the team on an exhibition series in Cancun.

On the bench, Ed Schilling joined the Memphis staff, after spending the past six seasons as head coach of Wright St. At WSU, Schilling held a record of 75-93. Schilling was a member of John Calipari’s staff at UMass for the 1996 Final Four team and joined Calipari during his first year coaching for the New Jersey Nets, before Schilling took the WSU job.

Saint Louis

Guard Reggie Bryant, a transfer from Villanova, was suspended for three games for his part in the Villanova phone card scandal last March. He’ll miss games against Eastern Kentucky, Savannah State and North Carolina A&T, but will be eligible for the December 2nd game against West Virginia.

Also, junior forward Floyd McClain left the team and withdrawn from the university for personal reasons. McCain, who missed most of two seasons with injuries, averaged 2 points and 1.2 rebounds his freshman season. And more bad news, Iowa Western Community College transfer guard Brandon Morris did not met academic eligibility requirements and will not play this year either. Rough off-season for the Billikens.

Southern Miss

Two Southern Miss incoming transfer students were ruled academically ineligible for the upcoming season. Two Lee College transfers, Brannon Hayes, a 6-foot-9 power forward, and Rudolph Mauricette, a 6-11 center, were ruled ineligible, and will not play for the Golden Eagles.

Part of the problem was that both took summer term classes at Lee, and Lee’s summer session ended after Southern Miss classes started. Another recruit, Emmanuel Willis, has not enrolled at Southern Miss, and is instead attending a private academy. Only Ronald Pittmann remains from the Golden Eagles’ four-member recruiting class.

A new edition to the coaching staff is assistant coach is Quinn Strander, who was most recently at Nicholls State University.


The Horned Frogs had a very rough off-season. Two Michigan natives, junior guard James Davis and sophomore center Brian Carter, requested their release from the program. Davis averaged 4.2 points and 2.8 boards per game over his career, and averaged 5.6 points his freshman year. Carter played in 17 games this past season after redshirting his freshman campaign, and averaged less than a point per game.

On top of that, assistant coach Jai Steadman, who was previously being investigated for NCAA rules violation, resigned. To that end, TCU AD Eric Hyman announced two violations occurred – illegal transportation to a recruit and improper academic assistance was offered to a current player.

On the bright side, former Temple guard Nile Murry transferred to TCU. Murry will sit out the 2003-04 season under NCAA transfer rules.


There was no real big news in the basketball program at Tulane. The big debate during the summer for a few weeks was about the Tulane athletic program in general. The university was debating dropping down to Division III in all athletics, citing inability to compete at the Div. I level, both on the field and financially. In the end though, the university decided to stay at Div. I.


Alabama prep standout Earnest Little and junior college transfer Marques Lewis have signed national letters of intent to play basketball at UAB, head coach Mike Anderson has announced. Both players will begin attending school in the fall of 2003.

As a senior, Little averaged 15.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and four blocks per contest. Little was listed as the No. 6 player in southwest Alabama by the Mobile Press Register’s “Super 16”.

Lewis transferred in from Wabash Valley (Ind.) College. While at Wabash, Lewis led the team with an average of 16.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest.


The Bulls have a whole new coaching staff, as Seth Greenberg bolted for Virginia Tech. Robert McCullum comes over from Western Michigan, and brings with him Frank Burnell, Tommy Deffebaugh and Steve Henson as his assistants.

They got to work right away making it their team, as McCullum dismissed sophomore forward Yusuf Baker for unspecified violations of team policy. Baker averaged almost five points and five boards per game, fell short of the standards and expectations of the USF program and the school in general. McCullum also cancelled Sheldon Franklin’s scholarship due to questionable SAT scores.

One last note, USF redesigned its mascot and from now will go as USF, not South Florida.


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