Capitals

Middle Tennessee Florida Atlantic joining C-USA

Middle Tennessee Florida Atlantic joining C-USA

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic will join Conference USA, leaving the Sun Belt as part of the ever-changing college landscape.

Conference USA announced the addition of its new members Thursday, just two days after Tulane and East Carolina left Conference USA for the Big East even with East Carolina just leaving in football.

``These are two great universities in wonderful places that have made strong commitments to athletics, and we're excited about the potential they bring to the conference,'' C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said.

The two new members joining Conference USA by 2014 will give the league 14 schools in 10 states.

Middle Tennessee President Sidney McPhee called Thursday a ``historic day'' noting that universities have been in ``constant movement'' to align themselves. The Blue Raiders have won eight all-sports Sun Belt trophies in 12 years, and McPhee said their desire is to compete with the best.

``I've been told when the invitation was made that Conference USA has had their eyes on us for a number of years and a number of institutions have been very impressed by the progress of this university,'' McPhee said.

Florida Atlantic caps a move from Division I-AA and puts the Owls in the league with rival FIU, which joins C-USA in 2013. FAU, with 28,000 students, opened a 29,419-seat football stadium on campus 13 months ago.

``This is a momentous day in the history of Florida Atlantic University,'' Florida Atlantic athletic director Pat Chun said.

Adding these two schools helps C-USA with two years left on its television deals with Fox and CBS.

Middle Tennessee has the most undergraduate students at a Tennessee university and is located 30 miles southeast of Nashville puts C-USA into a media market ranked 29th nationally and its fourth Top 30 market. Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton puts the league into the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market, which ranks 38th in the country.

Banowsky said C-USA may not be done expanding.

Western Kentucky, a longtime rival of Middle Tennessee's in both the Ohio Valley Conference and Sun Belt, and New Mexico State could become C-USA members. But the commissioner said he would not discuss specifics.

Middle Tennessee athletic director Chris Massaro was more than happy to talk.

His university announced the move in its new $65 million student union building. The pep band and cheerleaders were on hand with a new banner featuring the C-USA logo. The crowd included plenty of graduates from the days when Middle Tennessee competed in Division I-AA and was in the OVC. Massaro pointed to the new $30 million education building that just opened near a $147 million science building being built across the square.

``What we're doing is mirroring the growth of the entire institution,'' the AD said.

What remains to be determined is how quickly both schools start competing in C-USA.

The Sun Belt recently added a $1 million exit fee, and Massaro said the Blue Raiders could switch conferences sooner than July 1, 2014, if it works for both the Sun Belt and C-USA.

Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson said he was disappointed in the two schools leaving but that his league is very well positioned for the future.

``I remain very optimistic that the momentum that has been created in the past six months will continue to grow,'' Benson said. ``The continuing 10 members of the SBC are committed to excellence and I am confident that the SBC will take advantage of these latest changes in the landscape. As I have stated many times in the past six months, the SBC will be a major player in the future, especially within its geographic footprint.''

It's unlikely this is the last of conference realignment.

With several Conference USA members leaving that league for the Big East, and now that Sun Belt members are heading to C-USA, fans need to stay tuned.

``There are several outstanding universities that have indicated interest in joining the SBC,'' Benson said. ``While we have conducted research on these universities in the past six months, we will now focus on identifying the ones that will be the best `fit.' for the conference.''

Conference USA already had lost Memphis, Houston, Central Florida and SMU to the Big East earlier this year, prompting the league to add Charlotte, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Old Dominion and Texas-San Antonio starting in 2013. Middle Tennessee tried to join C-USA in that round of expansion and just missed out.

The Big Ten started up realignment again Nov. 19 by luring Maryland from the Atlantic Coast Conference followed by Rutgers leaving the Big East a day later. The ACC replaced Maryland with Louisville on Wednesday. The Big East landed Tulsa on Tuesday in all sports with East Carolina leaving Conference USA in football only.

Banowsky called the continuing realignment disturbing and volatile. He said it destroys rivalries, creates distrust among universities with all the ``commercial influence'' on conferences. But there is no avoiding it.

``They're strong forces, and so change may be the new norm in our industry,'' the C-USA commissioner said.

Quick Links

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Chandler Stephenson -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE

Quick Links

Need to Know: Five players who are wild cards for the 2018 Redskins

Need to Know: Five players who are wild cards for the 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, April 19, seven days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five wild cards for the 2018 Redskins

We know what to expect out of many members of the Redskins. Ryan Kerrigan will register between 10 and 13 sacks. Zach Brown will be among the league leaders in tackles. Jamison Crowder will compile about 800 yards receiving. But we really don’t know what to expect out of a lot of the players expected to play key roles. Here are five of them.

S Montae Nicholson—Although most of the uncertainty surrounding Nicholson is about his health, we really don’t know what he can do over a full season. Sure, he looked good in the six games he played last year but opposing offenses did not have much of a chance to probe his weaknesses. If he stays healthy, his ability to adjust to what the offenses are doing against him will be the next phase of his development. 

CB Fabian Moreau—As a rookie, he was impressive as a punt team gunner, but he got very limited playing time on defense (59 snaps, only seven after Week 5). The Redskins will be counting on him stepping into a bigger role after the departures of Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller. He has the tools but we won’t know how well he can handle the job until he gets extended playing time. 

WR Maurice Harris—Last year he went from spectacular to invisible in a hurry. He made a sensational catch for 36 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings the first time he was targeted. In five games after that, he had just three receptions for 26 yards. Should he have had more playing time (76 snaps)? Or did he just not earn more targets? The real Maurice Harris should come to the forefront in 2018.

NT Phil Taylor—You know the story here. He was looking great in training camp until a quad injury sidelined him for the season. Taylor is healthy enough for the Redskins to give him another chance but this is a player who has not taken the field since November of 2014. We simply don’t know what to expect out of him even if he does make into Week 1 in good health. 

RB Samaje Perine—His play improved as the year went on but he wasn’t good enough to keep both Jay Gruden and Doug Williams from saying that running back is a draft need. Ideally, he shares carries with the probable draft pick with a few going to Chris Thompson and they combine to rush for 1,800 yards. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

Tandler on Twitter

Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 33
—Training camp starts (7/26) 98
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 143

In case you missed it