One of the hottest takes on Twitter right now is that if the AAC needs another football team, of all the possible options nationwide, the Charlotte 49ers are somehow, beyond all reason and tradition to the contrary, in the running.
I view this as extremely unlikely, given the current landscape, HOWEVER: Charlotte, NC has a lot of people living there and they're going to advocate for their school no matter what. I get that, and I certainly can't fault them for doing so. Charlotte is a beautiful place to live.
There's no guarantee that the AAC will even add anyone (they're under no obligation to, and just signed a new TV contract which will pay them the same with 12 teams or 11), and if they did, I can guarantee you there'd be just as many articles and tweets and blog posts about how the AAC made the WORST POSSIBLE DECISION, and Mike Aresco is an IDIOT for not seeing the WISDOM in adding (your school here).
No one can predict what conference leadership will do, or who they could or would add when all is said and done, because they are working from a different playbook than we are. Historically, decisions have been made based on past success (Louisville to the ACC, Nebraska to the Big Ten, Boise State to the MW), sometimes it's just a larger metro area (Houston and UCF to the AAC), and sometimes they just highlight academics and hope you don't notice the on-field product is hot garbage (REDACTED).
There's a hierarchy of conferences, that much is incontrovertible, but if you must have something to be angry about this week, here are the most likely candidates if the AAC adds someone in the next few years (spoilers: they will NOT BE ADDING ANYONE IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS):
I. If the AAC adds a team according to: ON-FIELD SUCCESS
There's an academic aspect to these decisions, too, in the real world anyway, but based strictly on recent success in the two big-time sports, this is where we are in the 2019 offseason:
(3) Louisiana Tech
I tried for a bit to order these, but there's an equal case for all. All fit into the geographic footprint, all have had success in their current conferences. For the Thundering Herd and the Bulldogs, that success is ongoing. For the Bulls, it's very recent, but their athletic budget is THICC and they're not so far from Storrs, compared to the other candidates. Honestly most C-USA teams are options, but I maintain that the presence of SMU/UH will keep UNT/UTSA out, despite their huge media markets, and the presence of USF/UCF will preclude anything happening with FIU/FAU. After that, you're left with extremely small markets, so might as well go with great athletic departments, right?
II. If the AAC adds a team according to: GEOGRAPHY
C-USA threw caution to the wind a few years ago and just picked a bunch of schools that were in heavily populated areas. Now the conference is bloated up with 14 teams and not much of an improved TV contract as a result. Some (Charlotte and Old Dominion) have been outright busts at the football level, up until now. AND YET, let's assume that throwing another few thousand dollars in TV ad revenue at a school would magically fix their problems. Wishful thinking, but for the sake of argument:
(1) Louisiana Tech
If you listed every G5 team that exists and ranked them in order for "on-field success," Charlotte would pull up in the bottom three, which is why their presence in THIS section shouldn't really factor in. But it's a big metro area, North Carolina has a lot to offer provided they don't pass any more regressive laws that get them boycotted, AND it's not like East Carolina is lighting it up lately. ALSO: Carolina Panthers. And as for the other two? The AAC doesn't have a school in Alabama, so maybe some help there. In Louisiana they have Tulane, but the Green Wave do not traditionally strike fear into opponents. Honorable mention might be "any Ohio team from the MAC," but the MAC has gone largely untouched by expansion this century, so that's a bad shot. At the end of the day, that's a bad shot.
III. If the AAC adds a team according to: RABID FANBASES
(1) Southern Miss
(2) Southern Miss
(3) Southern Miss
This one we can fight out on Twitter.
Ultimately, all these above are in the top spot, and despite the on-field success of, say, Appalachian State, the conference hierarchy is real, and despite recent successes, C-USA just has more money, more bowl tie-ins, and larger budgets than the Sun Belt. We saw it in the last round when the Big 12 drew from the MW and Big East, and the AAC drew from C-USA. They will again.
If they were expanding.