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How will UAB Blazer football fit back into Conference USA's divisional landscape?

Does the conference go with the easy option or the daring option?

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

For as long as they have been a member of Conference USA, the UAB Blazers have been a member of the East division. Many other teams have come and gone but one of the few constants was that Green and Gold in the East.

Well, obviously things are different now. When UAB last played football in 2014, CUSA had unbalanced divisions for the first time in at least a decade, and UAB was one of seven East division members versus six in the West. Last season the numbers didn't change, because Charlotte came along to fill UAB's spot in that division.

This now complicates things because, unless something about CUSA's membership changes before the start of the 2017 season, UAB can't simply re-join the East division and then everything is hunky-dory. That would leave an eight-team East division and a six-team West division.

Fortunately, having the Blazers join the West division is likely not only the simplest option, it's probably the best one, too. Or is it?

Rivalries

Going back to the East doesn't really preserve any rivalries for them - they've played Marshall 10 times, and the rest of the current CUSA East a total of 13 times. They've never faced Charlotte or ODU, and the next time they play Western Kentucky will be just their second meeting since 1997.

Their strongest remaining rivalry (by either number of matchups or length of history) now that Memphis and ECU moved on is with Southern Miss, the last team to move to the CUSA West. Their history with the rest of the West isn't incredibly strong either (only played UTSA once, just recently played both La Tech and UNT for the first time in forever) but at least Southern Miss is there, and you'd probably want to ensure regular matchups with their best rival.

Geography

Here is where the West is literally the simplest option. If the Blazers go to the West division, then nothing changes other than each West division team (which doesn't include FIU or FAU) having to make a single trip to Birmingham. That's straightforward enough. No fuss, no muss.

Putting UAB back into the East, however, requires screwing with the existing conference geography. From a mileage standpoint, UAB is closer to all of the non-Florida CUSA East teams than they are to anybody else, so if you are going to make the case that the Blazers go back east, then about the only logical move would be to have both FAU and FIU change divisions - at which point it may as well shift to being North and South divisions.

Detractors would probably argue that this creates travel hardship within the conference, but that's not really a legitimate reason to make such a change. Florida Atlantic and Florida International are only 60 miles apart, but they are 710 miles away from Charlotte and even further away from everybody else in the conference. They're a conference hardship for everybody.

cusa

Yes, they're that big red circle that is a country mile away from everything. There is no good way to work with that, perhaps make them their own division?

Television Exposure

So here's one to consider; given everything that has gone on during the past year and a half: the first season or two of UAB Blazers football is going to be considered must-see television by a lot of fans. They won't all think that for the same reason, but that's beside the point here. The amount of attention and exposure that a game against UAB could garner for your team would be well worth the opportunity to play them on a regular basis.

I guess when you look at it this way, why wouldn't you want UAB in your division? They're an interesting opponent that should draw good crowds both in person and on TV for at least their first few seasons if not longer, they're right in the heart of the conference's footprint which allows you to drag all your crap to Southern Florida one less time a year, and for the right teams you could even start re-establishing a rivalry.

Can we put them in both divisions?