EL PASO, Texas — It seems UTEP could soon be looking for a new athletic conference as Conference USA is facing a slew of defections.
Sources told Yahoo Sports on Monday that the American Athletic Conference is expected to examine expansion this week, and is expected to receive applications from FAU, Charlotte, North Texas, UTSA, Rice and UAB.
Yahoo reported the expectation is that all of those schools will be accepted and the AAC will grow to a 14-team football and basketball league.
Should the proposed six schools depart C-USA for the AAC, then UTEP could be faced with a conference identity crisis themselves.
If Rice, UTSA, and North Texas depart for the American, that would leave UTEP as the only team from Texas remaining in the Conference USA. Not to mention, they are about as far west in Texas away from remaining C-USA members as possible.
"I think that problem is going to more and more clear," says Matt Brown, publisher of college athletics newsletter Extra Points. "UTEP is going to be close to 900 miles away from their closest conference opponent (Louisiana Tech)."
UTEP has long been enamored with the Mountain West Conference, seeing as geographically El Paso aligns with the time zones of the MWC's current members. A chance to get into conference with the University of New Mexico is additionally endearing.
However, college football insider Brett McMurphy of the Action Network has reported that the Mountain West has no interest in the Miners.
"Some of these schools in the Mountain West like Wyoming, their enrollment's declining. They're trying to recruit more out of state students," says Brown of a potential reason for the Mountain West's hesitance on UTEP.
"If you bring in UTEP, you're not getting central time zone exposure, and you're not really getting exposure to a metropolitan area where you can export college students."
"Because UTEP's struggled on the field and because their metropolitan area isn't as attractive as some of these other ones, you're not making any more money."
The proposed re-alignment within Conference USA comes at a time when the Miners' football program is experiencing one of it's most successful seasons of the 21st Century.
UTEP currently sits at 6-1 and 3-0 in C-USA play with their next home game coming ironically against undefeated UTSA on November 6th.
It is reported that each departing C-USA program would have to pay about $3 million in exit fees, which could free up money for C-USA to bring in other teams.
But with only so many schools playing FBS football, that could be tricky to find schools close geographically to UTEP.
The Sun Belt Conference could look to merge with the proposed adjusted C-USA, or UTEP could try to make a move themselves to a conference like the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
However, a move to the WAC would most likely result in the Miners' football program becoming FBS Independent.
With the newfound success of UTEP's football team, that could deter much of the momentum gained in 2021.
Analysts say all UTEP can do at this point is keep trying to produce winning results on the field, and hope not to be left out of the conference realignment shifting altogether.