kate - why are you surprised? Outside of the MAC, the view of that conference is not always in a positive light. Many feel it has taken advantage of situations and the NCAA has not been stringent upon forcing the MAC to conform with the rules of Division III per two conferences. There is no other place where two conferences have one overlying executive in charge (though, the ECAC hockey conferences might have had that set-up... but they were truly different conferences with no common conference for other sports; ECAC only existed for those schools for the sport of hockey).
Wasn't there a time when the Commonwealth and Freedom sides would have their division champions play each other for the overall MAC title, yet still have two AQs? I might not be remembering that incorrectly.
Yes, the six schools who left probably did think the grass is greener, but to be honest, I am not hearing them complain in the Landmark Conference. I think they got the situation they actually wanted. The one thing I have not heard is they want to go back to the MAC (while there are schools who want out of their situation and think the MAC will take them). Only two schools have come and gone from the Landmark (Stevens who spent a hot minute in the conference and Merchant Marine) and those reasons were far more internal than conference-wide. Also, the MAC has been a turn-style for schools and programs for much of it's lifetime. Yes, there are a few originals left, but the history and number of teams that have come and gone from the MAC is extensive - granted, being around for 100 years is certainly part of that conversation.
I am not against the MAC in anyway, but it has been a thorn for many outside of the conference. The decision to split the two conferences into two different regions, especially in basketball but also in other sports, was another sign from the NCAA that they want the conferences to literally be two different entities - not two acting groups that are really a single entity.
As it pertains to the USA South - the NCAA has on many occasions pointed out it will no longer give multiple AQs to conferences no matter how big they are or how split up they make them in sports. There are several who play with divisions where two AQs are out of the question. Those conferences do eye the MAC and wonder why they get to keep their two AQs. The NCAA has stressed the MAC conferences have to be more like two different groups, but when you have a common MAC for sports like football and a common executive in charge of the entire system, that becomes difficult. Not sure if the NCAA is done pushing the MAC to make further changes or if one last change may come once Ken Andrews steps down.