July 1, 2013 was a busy day on the college sports landscape, with a “new” league (American Athletic Conference) coming into existence and some 46 schools moving from one conference to another. But while the major shifting took place on that day, today — July 1, 2014 — hasn’t lacked for moves, with the majority of those shifts coming at the mid-major level.
Will this be the end of realignment for the foreseeable future? Or is this all just the tip of the iceberg, with NCAA issues such as the Ed O’Bannon and Sam Keller lawsuits and the threat of unionization possibly changing the structure of intercollegiate athletics? Only time will tell.
Below is a summary of each move that has taken place, with the ACC, American, Big Ten and SoCon among the conferences adding and/or losing members.
American Athletic Conference: Mike Aresco’s league loses two members in Louisville and Rutgers (Big Ten), but gains three as East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa make the jump from Conference USA. Basketball-wise this is a tough “trade” for one reason: the loss of Louisville. Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are off the the ACC, where they’ll be a contender from the start. Of the three basketball programs joining the conference Tulsa’s best positioned for immediate success, with the Golden Hurricane returning the majority of their rotation from last season’s NCAA tournament team.
Atlantic 10: Last year the A-10 lost programs to the American (Temple), Big East (Butler and Xavier) and Conference USA (Charlotte) while adding one in George Mason, and they’ll add another program this summer with Davidson on board. Bob McKillop’s Wildcats were an excellent program during their time in the Southern Conference, making them a quality addition to the Atlantic 10.
ACC: For the second time in its existence the ACC will be losing a school, with charter member Maryland moving to the Big Ten with economics playing a major role in the decision. In place of the Terrapins will be Louisville, who have experienced greater success on the basketball court in recent years. With a now stable membership, the ACC will look to live up to the “best conference ever” chatter that began with the arrivals of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
Atlantic Sun: The A-Sun lost two members on July 1, with East Tennessee State and Mercer both moving to the Southern Conference. Those are big losses, especially when considering just how good Bob Hoffman’s Mercer Bears have been in recent years. Those moves make the A-Sun an eight-team league with FGCU expected to lead the way. And only seven of the eight teams will be eligible for the conference tournament, with Northern Kentucky still a transitional Division I member.
Big Sky: An 11-team league last season, the Big Sky moves to 12 members with the arrival of Idaho. The Vandals, whose football program will be a part of the Sun Belt, took one of the biggest hits in realignment with the Mountain West picking apart their former home (WAC).
Big South: The Big South loses one program, as VMI will join the Southern Conference. The Keydets may not have reached the NCAA tournament in recent years, but Duggar Baucom’s program played an entertaining style of basketball that led to a lot of points being scored.
Big Ten: Jim Delany’s conference doesn’t lose any members but they gain two in Maryland (ACC) and Rutgers (American). Maryland will be under some pressure in its first season in the league, with Mark Turgeon yet to lead the program to the NCAA tournament during his tenure in College Park, and they’re talented enough to end that streak. As for Rutgers, year two of the Eddie Jordan rebuilding project looks to be a difficult one. But on the bright side for the conference, adding Rutgers means another state with quality high school programs (New Jersey) is now within the conference’s “footprint.”
Colonial: The CAA was another league hurt by conference realignment, with Old Dominion, VCU and George Mason moving on in recent years. The CAA won’t lose any members this summer but they do gain one, as Elon’s moving in from the Southern Conference. Elon is the second school in as many seasons to move from the SoCon to the CAA, with the College of Charleston doing so last year.
Conference USA: Three more programs are leaving C-USA, with ECU, Tulane and Tulsa all moving on to the American. Conference USA adds one member this summer, with Western Kentucky making the move from the Sun Belt. Ray Harper’s Hilltoppers didn’t reach the NCAA tournament last season but they did in each of the two seasons prior.
Southern: No conference will experience more change on July 1 than the SoCon. Final count: four schools out, and three schools in. While Davidson (A-10) and Elon (CAA) have made their moves for basketball reasons, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will both join the Sun Belt with football being the catalyst. The three entrants are ETSU, Mercer (both from the A-Sun) and VMI (Big South).
Southland: The Southland loses a member this summer, with Oral Roberts moving back to the Summit League after spending two seasons in the Southland.
Summit League: Just two years after beginning play in the Southland Conference, Oral Roberts is headed back to the Summit League. So obviously there will be some familiarity, and the return of ORU gives the Summit League another solid program to compete with the likes of Denver, North Dakota State and South Dakota State.
Sun Belt: The Sun Belt loses one member in Western Kentucky but gains two as Appalachian State and Georgia Southern move in from the Southern Conference. Appalachian State will have a new head coach as well, with former Davidson assistant Jim Fox taking over for Jason Capel.
WAC: The WAC loses a member as Idaho’s moved its non-football programs to the Big Sky (football is in the Sun Belt). Grand Canyon remains a transitional Division I member, meaning that the Antelopes won’t be eligible for the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in 2014-15. Seven of the eight remaining members will be able to play in the conference tournament next March.
And here’s the full list of schools changing leagues on July 1:
- Appalachian State: Southern to Sun Belt
- Davidson: Southern to Atlantic 10
- East Carolina: Conference USA to American Athletic
- Elon: Southern to Colonial
- East Tennessee State: Atlantic Sun to Southern
- Georgia Southern: Southern to Sun Belt
- Idaho: WAC to Big Sky
- Louisville: American Athletic to ACC
- Maryland: ACC to Big Ten
- Mercer: Atlantic Sun to Southern
- Oral Roberts: Southland to Summit League
- Rutgers: American Athletic to Big Ten
- Tulane: Conference USA to American Athletic
- Tulsa: Conference USA to American Athletic
- VMI: Big South to Southern
- Western Kentucky: Sun Belt to Conference USA