With today's news that UMass will leave the MAC at the conclusion of the 2015 football season, the conference will be reduced once more to 12 schools. While many MAC fans may prefer the conference to stand pat, the supremacy of television contracts and their revenues may cause the conference to look again into expansion. Here are four schools that could be recruited to join the Mid-American Conference in the near future:
James Madison - Out of all the schools on this list, the Dukes are the most likely to make the jump to the FBS in the immediate future. JMU has already received overtures from the Sun Belt, which is looking to expand to 12 schools and split into two divisions. For its own part, James Madison had hoped to receive interest from Conference USA, but no such offer seems to be in the works. If the MAC can find a way to lure JMU, it can expand the outreach of the conference to both the east and the south, as well as gain access to the Washington, D.C. area TV market.
Delaware - Another school that could serve as a gateway to the East would be the University of Delaware. UD would bring a recent history of strong fan support, having averaged over 20,000 fans per game from 1999-2010. However, there has been no such public push towards leaving the FCS from Delaware's administration, so Jon Steinbrecher and Co. would likely be fighting an uphill battle for the Blue Hens.
Villanova - If the MAC wanted to replace UMass with their second Philly school in a decade, Villanova seems a likely candidate. The school has flirted with taking its successful FCS program to the big leagues, but have generally looked at other conferences, with the AAC the most likely destination. Villanova would also either need to upgrade their stadium or move elsewhere, as Villanova Stadium's current capacity sits below 15,000, which is the minimum attendance requirement for FBS teams.
Missouri State - While Mo State lacks the attractive TV markets of the east coast, it still would represent an expansion of the MAC's football footprint. The Bears have also previously been candidates for the FBS, receiving attention from the Sun Belt and Conference USA. One thing working in favor of the MAC is that Missouri State is already a partial member in both field hockey and men's swimming and diving. Missouri State would also be more likely to become full members of the MAC, rather than just a football only member.
It's probably unlikely that any such expansion will happen very soon, but by the time MAC television rights open up in 2016, the conference will likely want to be in a few more markets in order to gain some leverage in negotiations. All in all, future MAC expansion is definitely something to keep an ear open for in the coming months.