‘Comfortable at 10’: Caboni talks C-USA at regents meeting

WKU+President+Timothy+Caboni+shakes+hands+with+Hilltoppers%E2%80%99+senior+quarterback+Bailey+Zappe+during+senior+day+festivities.

Marshall C. Canupp

WKU President Timothy Caboni shakes hands with Hilltoppers’ senior quarterback Bailey Zappe during senior day festivities.

Jake Moore, Co-editor-in-chief

Conference USA, the home league of the Hilltoppers, is up to 10 members after Kennesaw State was approved to join the league in all sports in 2024 last week.

“I’m pleased to report that Conference USA is in good shape,” WKU President Timothy Caboni said during his update on the state of C-USA at Friday’s Board of Regents meeting.

Caboni has served as the chair of C-USA’s board of directors since North Texas President Neal Smatresk vacated the seat last year.

Caboni addressed the talk that C-USA was eyeing the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels as a potential addition, sharing that while the conference was “thankful for their interest,” Kennesaw State topped the league’s list.

“Some folks have asked me, either in a public way or privately, why it is that Kennesaw State was the choice and not EKU,” Caboni said. 

Caboni said as much as he appreciates “what our good colleagues in Richmond are doing,” adding Kennesaw State was an enticing option as the school is located just outside of metro Atlanta with an enrollment of around 40,000 students.

Caboni said the size of the program’s athletic budget also played a role, which will place the Owls in the “middle of the pack” of existing C-USA members once they officially arrive.

“There really was no institution that was on the conference’s list of potential additions that brought that kind of institutional strength [and] commitment to athletics, and we were very pleased to add them just last week,” Caboni said.

On the likelihood of the league expanding further to 12 members, Caboni said that is a “possibility.”

“I think we’re comfortable today at 10, the membership committee of the conference will continue to work on potential additions, but we’re focused now as a conference on really finalizing a new media rights agreement,” Caboni said.

If the league were to expand to 12 teams, the president said that could create the opportunity to split C-USA into a pair of six-team divisions.

C-USA’s TV deal with CBS is set to expire following the 2022-23 academic year. The league also has agreements to air events on Stadium and ESPN+.

“What we’ve heard and what our athletic director has heard from our fans is ‘we want a simpler way to find games, and we would prefer more TV exposure on linear channels,’” Caboni said. 

The president said the media agreement will take shape over the coming weeks as details are finalized with the conference’s partners.

“I think you’re going to see a simplified way to find our games, and you’re going to see an increase in exposure, an increase in coverage and also an increase in the platform,” Caboni said. “More news to come in the weeks ahead.”

The league lost six members to the American Athletic Conference and three to the Sun Belt Conference due to 2021’s aggressive wave of NCAA conference realignment.

C-USA went from 14 teams to five, losing Florida Atlantic, Rice, UAB, North Texas, Charlotte and UTSA to the AAC and Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Mississippi to the SBC.

After the dust cleared, five members – WKU, MTSU, FIU, UTEP and Louisiana Tech – remained. C-USA then added Liberty, New Mexico State, Jacksonville State, Sam Houston State and Kennesaw State to reach ten members.

“For those of you who this time last year were concerned about our conference affiliation, I would say the best is yet to come,” Caboni said.

Co-Editor-in-Chief Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.