Realignment led to Conference USA swelling to 14 teams in 2013. Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF all bolted for the Big East (later named the American Athletic Conference), so CUSA raided FAU, FIU, Middle Tennessee and North Texas from the Sun Belt. It additionally picked up Louisiana Tech and UTSA, both of which were refugees from the WAC after that conference dropped football.
Changes in the conference continue in 2014 with the losses of East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa to the American. As replacements, the league has attracted Western Kentucky (Sun Belt) and Old Dominion (FCS). It adds UNC-Charlotte (FCS) in 2015 to get back to 14 schools.
FAU, UAB and Western Kentucky will all have new head coaches this season.
Charlie Partridge was hired as the new head coach at FAU on December 14. A long-time assistant to Brett Bielema, Partridge was the assistant head coach at Arkansas this past season and coached the defensive line. The move ended an ugly chapter in FAU football which began when Carl Pelini was fired on October 30 after it was discovered he and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis had smoked marijuana at a recent social event. Rekstis was also fired.
Pelini did not speak publicly but Director of Athletics Pat Chun issued a statement on his behalf which read, "I apologize for exercising poor judgment. My greatest concerns at this time are for my family, the dedicated FAU players and my staff. I am confident that Pat Chun and the University administration will continue to move the program forward."
A month later, Pelini sought to undo his resignation and get his job back, so FAU withdrew his letter of resignation and officially fired him with no further mention or allegation of drug use.
FAU was 2-6 overall, 1-4 in CUSA play, at the time of his firing. Offensive coordinator Brian Wright served as interim head coach for the remainder of the season, going 4-0 while allowing just 40 total points.
The day after Petrino's move was officially announced, Garrick McGee resigned as the head coach at UAB to join Petrino as his offensive coordinator. It's thought to be a move of both frustration and opportunity for McGee. He was a key member of Petrino's staff at Arkansas, and he was frustrated with the lack of improvements to the UAB football facilities. McGee was just 5-11 in two seasons with the Blazers.
On January 21, Jacksonville State confirmed head coach Bill Clark was leaving to become the replacement for McGee at UAB. Clark was 11-4 in his only season with the Jacksonville, Alabama school as the Gamecocks were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs.
On January 9, Louisville announced it had rehired Bobby Petrino from Western Kentucky. Petrino left Louisville in 2006 to become head coach of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. It only took 13 games (3-10) before he fled Atlanta in the middle of the night to become the head coach at Arkansas. His 4 years in Fayetteville came crashing down when a motorcycle wreck led to the discovery of an affair with a former student and subordinate, after which the school fired him for a "pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior".
Petrino's offensive coordinator at WKU, Jeff Brohm, was officially announced on January 10 as the successor to his former boss. Brohm was essentially hired as a head coach in waiting and for insurance against Petrino's inevitable departure. Brohm had a journeyman NFL quarterback career after playing at Louisville (1989-1993) where his brother, Brian, was later the starting QB under Petrino and Jeff was Brian's QB coach. It would be Jeff Brohm's first stint as a head coach.
Rice defeated Marshall in last year's championship game, 41-24, on the Owls' home field as both teams finished 10-4 overall and 7-1 in their respective divisions. This year, the computer has the Herd returning to the title game and hosting UTSA with Marshall favored by 1.41 to win that theoretical contest. Those schools are each projected to enter the title game with 8-0 records in conference play as they are not scheduled to meet in the regular season. Both are expected to run away from the CUSA field with Marshall further predicted to go 12-0 overall to end the regular season ranked 10th nationally. UTSA is projected to go 10-2 overall.