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A semi-quick guide to 2014’s college football realignment changes

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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?

ACC

Adding: Louisville

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.

Big Ten

Adding: Maryland, Rutgers

Losing: None

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.

Big 12

No changes.

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.

Conference USA

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.

MAC

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

No changes.

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.

Pac-12

No changes.

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.

SEC

No changes.

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).

Arizona signee My-King Johnson set to become FBS’ first active openly gay scholarship player

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 25:  Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Arizona Wildcats watches from the sidelines during the Territorial Cup college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Arizona Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona signee My-King Johnson probably caught most Wildcats’ fans attention with his impressive name when it was listed among the 23 signees for the football program on National Signing Day.

The 6-3, 225 pound defensive end’s name is set to become a little more well known however.

In a story on Saturday in the Arizona Daily Star, Johnson confirmed that he would become the first active openly gay scholarship player in FBS when he enrolls over the summer down in Tucson.

“I do feel like when I say that, it can put a target on my back,” Johnson told the paper about going public with his sexuality. “But whatever.”

Johnson is far from the only gay athlete to play major college football but does appear to be one of the first to go public on the matter prior to suiting up for a major program. Missouri’s Michael Sam came out once he entered the NFL Draft. Just up the road in Tempe, where Johnson went to high school, Arizona State walk-on Chip Sarafin told his teammates in 2014.

From the Daily Star:

When Johnson told UA assistant Vince Amey about his sexuality while being recruited, the coach’s reaction — “We want you to be a Wildcat” — was exactly what he wanted to hear.

Johnson picked the Wildcats despite offers from numerous FBS programs, including many in the Pac-12. Perhaps coincidentally, he really jumped on the radar of the coaching staff when he sacked quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, an Arizona signee himself (and the son of head coach Rich Rodriguez), three times in a high school game.

It certainly seems as though Johnson is very comfortable telling his story to a wider audience than just his teammates and coaches by doing the interview with the Daily Star and the environment down in Tucson has been very welcoming to all the new attention that it will bring. As the Wildcats begin spring practice this month, chances are the coaching staff is probably just as excited about the prospect of Johnson making an instant impact on defense this fall after seeing plenty of issues on that side of the ball during a 3-9 campaign in 2016.

Central Michigan AD taking same position at Arizona

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 25:  Wide receiver Samajie Grant #10 of the Arizona Wildcats celebrates after scoring on a two yard rushing touchdown against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the fourth quarter of the Territorial Cup college football game at Arizona Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona has its replacement for former athletic director Greg Byrne.

Central Michigan AD Dave Heeke is set to take the same position in Tucson with the Wildcats, the school announced Saturday afternoon.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be part of the Arizona Athletics family. It is truly an honor to be named the new Vice President for Athletics and have the opportunity to return to the prestigious Pac-12 Conference,” Heeke said in a release. “I want to thank Dr. Hart and those involved with the search process for their confidence in my ability to lead one of the premiere athletics departments in the country. This program is about excellence and we will continue to focus on achieving at the very highest level athletically and academically, while creating the finest experience in the country for our student-athletes.

Heeke has been in Mount Pleasant since early 2006 and found plenty of success with the MAC school across numerous sports. In football, he notably hired Butch Jones to replace Brian Kelly when the latter left for Cincinnati and has seen the Chippewas make a bowl game eight times during his tenure.

While he is a Michigan native, he’s no stranger to the way things operate out West having spent 18 years at Oregon. While he held a variety of roles in Eugene, he eventually became a senior associate athletic director with the Ducks before departing for CMU.

Arizona had a vacancy in their athletic leadership ever since Byrne left to become Alabama’s AD not long after the national title game in January.

UTEP’s Theron Aych named new receivers coach at Arizona

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10:  Wide receiver Trey Griffey #5 of the Arizona Wildcats catches the ball in front of defensive back Jaterious Pouncey #48 of the Grambling State Tigers for a 34 yard touchdown in the third quarter at Arizona Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Spring practice is already underway in Tucson but it took until the end of this week for Arizona to finally have a complete offensive coaching staff.

The Wildcats announced on Saturday that Theron Aych would be taking over as the team’s new receivers coach, filling a vacancy created when Tony Dews left for West Virginia.

Aych helped provide a nice boost to the Miners’ passing game in his one season in El Paso and spent five seasons at Division II Angelo State prior to that. He served as the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach with the Rams during his five-year stint before moving up to the FBS level.

The Pac-12 is no new experience for Aych though, as he served as a graduate assistant at Washington over a decade ago.

Aych should have his work cut out for him this spring with the team featuring plenty of young players at the receiver position while also dealing with the loss of standouts like Trey Griffey and reliable veteran Nate Phillips both gone.

Colorado rounds out new defensive staff with hire of former Purdue DC Ross Els

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 22:  Head coach Mike MacIntyre of the Colorado Buffaloes looks on prior to the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 22, 2014 in Eugene, Oregon. The Ducks defeated the Buffaloes 44-10.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Just in the nick of time, Mike MacIntyre has rounded out his new defensive staff for the 2017 season.

The Buffaloes announced on Friday evening that former Purdue defensive coordinator Ross Els would be joining the program and serving as inside linebackers coach. The release notes that Els’ paperwork was completed in time for him to join the team for their second practice of spring ball.

“Coach Ross Els brings a lot of energy,” MacIntyre said.  “He has great experience as a coordinator, positions coach and special teams coach, and we’re really excited about having his expertise in those phases in our program.”

Els adds plenty of experience to Boulder, having coached linebackers at New Mexico State, Ohio and Nebraska. In addition, he was the Boilermakers’ defensive coordinator  and safeties coach last season.

The move completes the staff for the Buffs after seeing a number of coaches depart to Oregon with former coordinator Jim Leavitt.