Conference realignment finally settles down … hopefully

dshirley@macon.comJuly 1, 2013 

For the past few years, we couldn’t go a day without news about a college program, or several college programs, moving from one conference to another. It was dizzying, confusing and many times annoying.

 

The moves, it seemed, never would slow down, but hopefully they have for a while. There are still moves pending, but it doesn’t look like there will be sweeping changes … at least for a couple of years before all the silliness probably will begin anew.

With the ACC officially adding three new members Monday, here’s a quick update of just some of the major moves and where we stand for the next year (Note: the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 stood pat during this round of realignment, although it’s silly that there are only 10 teams in the Big 12):

ACC: The conference officially added Notre Dame (not football), Pittsburgh and Syracuse on Monday. That brings the conference to 15 members, and for football, Syracuse will land in the Atlantic Division with Pittsburgh in the Coastal Division. Georgia Tech is the only ACC team that will play both the Orange and Panthers this upcoming season. Next summer, Louisville will replace Maryland, which jumps to the Big Ten (yes, it’s still the Big Ten with 14 members; they don’t major in math in that conference), and the Cardinals bring with them a strong athletics department. This year alone, Louisville won a BCS bowl and the men’s national basketball championship while reaching the women’s Final Four and the College World Series. For a conference that reportedly was on death’s door last year with Clemson and Florida State jumping to the Big 12 and Virginia Tech and N.C. State heading to the SEC, the ACC is in surprisingly good shape.

Big East: Remember all the years of debate about if the conference deserved to be at the big boy table of college football? We don’t have to worry about that any more after a split returned this conference to its roots of a basketball-first conference. And what a conference it will be with Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s Villanova and Xavier. It immediately becomes one of the best basketball conferences around. But football? Well, it won’t be relevant, not that it was much anyway before.

AAC: Without looking it up, if you know what AAC stands for and what its original members are, you win the big prize. The American Athletic Conference is born from the split with the Big East, and its members this year are Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, SMU, South Florida and Temple. Before it can even get settled in, the new conference will lose Rutgers to the Big Ten and Louisville to the ACC this time next year and will add East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa. In 2015, Navy jumps aboard … Navy? Aboard? Get it? It’s hard to know what the conference will end up being because even though there are some solid programs in the group, there also are several struggling ones that were lucky to find a home. This conference will need time to come together to form a cohesive unit and an identity.

Boise State/BYU: Where did they end up? Well, they didn’t end up where they should have. Just think of these two programs competing (in football at least) with the top programs in the Big 12 (actually giving the conference 12 teams) or maybe the Pac-12 (which would be up to 14, although it likely would actually change its name to match its membership). But Boise State, which was supposed to jump to the Big East before its split, ended up in the Mountain West Conference (another prize if you can name its members), while BYU has chosen independence in football. If those two joined the Big 12 or Pac-12, one of those conferences might be able to give the SEC a run for its money.

Peach State moves: Conference realignment even struck home right here in the Peach State. With teams moving all over the place, the Sun Belt was looking for schools to fill holes. Georgia State, which was previously in the Colonial Athletic Conference, and Georgia Southern, which has competed in FCS, fit the bill and will join the Sun Belt next year. It should be interesting to see the Panthers and Eagles in the same conference since they haven’t played in football and there seems to be some animosity between the two fan bases. Then the realignment hit right here in Macon with Mercer being tabbed to fill the holes the Southern Conference had after it lost Georgia Southern and Appalachian State. Mercer was the final original member of the A-Sun (TAAC at the time), and the Bears’ move to the Southern Conference coincides with an addition of scholarship football. Mercer should fit in well with schools like Furman, Wofford, Samford, The Citadel, ETSU and Chattanooga to form a solid conference … if the conference can avoid losing any more members.

But that’s the unknown moving forward. It looks like things have finally settled down for a bit, but that could all change tomorrow.

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