On Tuesday the latest round of conference realignment musical chairs will begin. If you have lost track of where every school is playing, have no worries because you are surely not alone. In an attempt to keep you updated on all of the changes coming your way this week (Tuesday, July 1 is the official realignment day), here is a rundown of all of the changes taking place and which school is moving where this year. For those planning ahead, there is a look at the potential realignment scene to watch for each conference as well.
American Athletic Conference
Adding: Tulane, Tulsa, East Carolina
Losing: Louisville (ACC), Rutgers (Big Ten)
What was once the Big East is now taking on more of a Conference USA 2.0 feel with the additions of Tulane, Tulsa and East Carolina from Conference USA. The conference will lose Louisville to the ACC and Rutgers to the Big Ten, which hurts the conference’s profile from a competitive standpoint as well as a television marketing standpoint. Navy will be coming aboard as a football-only member starting in 2015, which will give the conference a 12-member football conference and allow for the introduction of a conference championship game.
Realignment Watch: The conference could still be at risk of future changes despite feeling comfortable with the situation now. Cincinnati and Connecticut are two programs that could keep a watchful eye on the lookout for potential landing spots in future conference realignment changes. If the conference does lose any other members, could an invite to Army or UMass be inevitable?
Losing: Maryland (Big Ten)
Maryland, a founding member of the ACC will leave the conference in search of bigger paychecks from the Big Ten. The divorce between Maryland and the ACC has been bitter and those hurt feelings could linger for a while until all exit fees are settled. The ACC likely comes out feeling pretty good about the situation though with the addition of Louisville, a school with a tremendous string of success as an athletics program. The ACC stays at 14 members and continues with the football-scheduling partnership with Notre Dame.
Realignment Watch: With 14 members, the ACC looks to be about as stable as it has been in some time. The grant of rights agreement gives each ACC school more comfort in the changing landscape of collegiate athletics and the future could be bright with the possible addition of an ACC network. Unless there is a need for further expansion due to a Division IV split, the ACC is probably in a good situation.
Adding: Maryland, Rutgers
The Big Ten will increase membership from 12 members to 14 with the second conference expansion in four years (Nebraska joined in 2011). The additions of Maryland and Rutgers do little to add to the football profile of the conference, but the goal of gaining exposure in the eastern TV markets is the strategy at play here. The expansion also means the Big Ten has to reshuffle the divisions, which means no more Leaders and Legends (now that you probably just figured it out, or not). Maryland and Rutgers will join Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State in the new east division.
Realignment Watch: The Big Ten may have already been in a stable position after adding Nebraska, but at this point the conference has probably reached as far as it will be able to successfully. The risk of losing any members is likely minimal given the resources and money involved with being a part of the Big Ten. The only possible loss the Big Ten would probably see would be Nebraska making a return to the Big 12, but that does not appear to be something to seriously be concerned about. The Big Ten is not likely to expand any more, so we can probably forget about Texas, Oklahoma or even Notre Dame.
Realignment Watch: The Big 12 has 10 members, and the conference has made it clear it is perfectly fine with that number. The big question to be answered in the coming year or two is what does the impact of a conference championship game carry in the College Football Playoff. If a conference championship game proves to be a difference-maker, the Big 12 might think about acting quickly on getting back to 12 members. That would be good news for a program like BYU, which the Big 12 has avoided time and time again. Cincinnati? UCF and/or USF? Keep an eye on the Big 12, just in case.
Adding: Western Kentucky
Losing: Tulane, Tulsa, East Carolina (all to AAC)
Conference USA is a conference investing in potential growth with smaller and younger programs. Western Kentucky comes aboard this season to keep the conference’s membership at 14. The conference already added a handful of schools last season after losing UCF, Houston, Memphis and SMU, to the American last season, so not much was needed to fill the holes left by these upcoming changes.
Realignment Watch: Conference USA looks to be a conference that will follow in the domino effect of other conference changes. Unless another conference makes any moves, Conference USA looks to be sitting still on changes. No school will be leaving to join the Sun Belt and the MAC doesn’t look to be a threat for poaching any members, so all eyes should remain on any changes that take place in the American. If the AAC needs to fill some holes in membership, Conference USA could be the target.
No changes, although this will be the final season with UMass as an associate member. The Minutemen will leave the conference after this season and continue to weigh options for the football program’s future.
Realignment Watch: With the upcoming loss of UMass, the MAC will return to a 12-member conference. There is no need for any expansion within the MAC, and the conference seems to be perfectly situated with membership. Unless any school made an attempt to flirt with another conference for any reason (American or Conference USA would be only potential conferences to worry about), the MAC looks to be staying put. Not much to worry about here.
Mountain West Conference
Realignment Watch: The most likely scenario for the Mountain West Conference might be to welcome back BYU if or when the school decides to abandon football independence. The conference is not likely to lose any other members unless the Big 12 wants to open up discussions about expansion candidates. That seems unlikely, as the Big 12 might be more interested in more eastern programs to accompany West Virginia if the topic comes up. The Mountain West Conference passed on Idaho and New Mexico State while raiding the WAC, and it does not appear there is any reason to change the stance on those programs at this time for the conference.
Realignment Watch: The Pac-12 is a conference that actually has an accurate number in the name, and that should remain the case for the time being. Unless there is a need to increase membership in any split from the NCAA, the Pac-12 should be expected to stick with 12 members. Could the rumors of Texas and Oklahoma kick up some dust? Maybe, but there should be nothing to get too excited about. The same goes for BYU. The Pac-12 probably could have had BYU if it wanted. They took Utah and Colorado instead.
Realignment Watch: The SEC looks pretty solid right now. The additions of texas A&M and Missouri have gone a little more smoothly than perhaps initially expected and the conference is in a very stable place financially with the addition of the SEC Network later this summer. No school will be leaving the SEC, and the options to add that make any sense are not in place, especially if the ACC is on steady ground.
Sun Belt Conference
Adding: Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Idaho, New Mexico State
Losing: Western Kentucky
The Sun Belt adds two former FCS powers with Appalachian State and Georgia Southern and the conference will take on two schools left deserted by the implosion of the WAC, Idaho and New Mexico State. The conference also loses Western Kentucky and will continue to evaluate potential expansion plans in a search to get an even football membership.
Realignment Watch: The Sun Belt will be most likely to add football schools from the FCS ranks. There are no realistic options sitting in the FBS at this time to add to the Sun Belt, and the future of associate members Idaho and New Mexico State should be watched carefully as well. Like Conference USA, if a domino effect does take place, the Sun Belt could be at risk of losing another member or more (likely to Conference USA).