Conference USA was picked clean during the offseason as a domino effect of the announcements that UCF, Houston and Cincinnati would be leaving the American Conference in 2023 for the greener pastures of the Big 12. Sensing weakness, three CUSA schools vacated for the Sun Belt this season - Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss. Next year, Conference USA will see the departures of Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA - all to The American. CUSA will pick up independents Liberty and New Mexico State, along with current FCS members Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State.
Last season, UAB was picked to notch a fourth straight division title in the west, and FAU was projected to capture the east for the third time in five years. Those picks by the Congrove Computer Rankings missed the mark on both accounts as UTSA blitzed its way through the West and Western Kentucky conquered the East. The championship game was a 49-41 shootout victory by the Roadrunners in front of over 40,000 fans at San Antonio.
With the contraction of the conference lineup from 14 teams to 11, the two-division format is gone. Instead, the top two teams over-all will play for the championship.
UTSA, which had a breakout year in 2021, is awarded a second straight conference title by defeating UAB which wins a second-place tiebreaker with UTEP.
UAB was stunned by the sudden departure of Bill Clark as head coach when the 54-year-old had to announce his 'retirement' on Friday, June 24, due to back issues. He said he had been told by doctors that he needed a spinal fusion. Clark's team was 9-4 last year and his career record at UAB is 49-26. Offensive Coordinator Bryant Vincent assumes the interim duties of head coach.
Two other conference members, FIU and Louisiana Tech, also begin the year with a new head coach.
Mike MacIntyre is the new head coach at FIU. He was the consensus national coach of the year in 2016 after guiding Colorado to a 10-4 finish and the Pac-12 South Division Title. While with San Jose State, MacIntyre led the Spartans to the program's first ranking in the final BCS standings (No. 24) following a 10-2 mark in 2012. Each of those would be his only winning season at those schools and he has a career record of 46-65. MacIntyre spent the last two seasons as defensive coordinator at Memphis after holding the same position at Ole Miss in 2019. He's a Miami, Florida native. MacIntyre replaces Butch Davis.
On November 15, it was revealed that FIU (1-9) and Butch Davis would part ways at the end of the season. According to USA Today, the school had earlier posted a job opening for head coach on its own website, as well as the American Football Coaches Association website (story). He was permitted to finish out the season, but lost both remaining games to fall to 1-11. The Panthers won just 1 of their last 19 games under Davis and that was against FCS member LIU at the start of last 2021 season.
Louisiana Tech on November 30 named Sonny Cumbie as its new head coach. He was 1-3 as the interim head coach at Texas Tech after Matt Wells was fired mid-season. Louisiana Tech had announced four days earlier that it will part ways with Skip Holtz after nine seasons in Ruston. Holtz was permitted to lead the Bulldogs in their last game, which they lost 35-31 at Rice to finish 3-9. His records in Ruston were 64-50 over-all and 43-27 in Conference USA.
NOTE: CUSA games In 'Week Zero' saw North Texas defeat UTEP, and FAU defeat Charlotte. Also, Western Kentucky won a non-conference game vs. FCS member Austin Peay.
|*UTSA hosts and defeats UAB in the CUSA Championship game|