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The Conference Realignment & Expansion Chronicles

May
12
2003
By
Category: ACC Expansion & Realignment, America East Expansion & Realignment, American Conference Expansion & Realignment, Atlantic 10 Expansion & Realignment, Atlantic Sun Expansion & Realignment, Big 12 Expansion & Realignment, Big East Expansion & Realignment, Big Sky Expansion & Realignment, Big South Expansion & Realignment, Big Ten Expansion & Realignment, Big West Expansion & Realignment, CAA Expansion & Realignment, Conference USA Expansion & Realignment, expansion, Featured News, Great West Expansion & Realignment, Horizon League Expansion & Realignment, Ivy League Expansion & Realignment, MAAC Expansion & Realignment, MAC Expansion & Realignment, MEAC Expansion & Realignment, Missouri Valley Expansion & Realignment, Mountain West Expansion & Realignment, NCAA Conference Expansion & Realignment, NEC Expansion & Realignment, Northeast Conference Expansion, Ohio Valley Conference Expansion, Pac-12 Expansion & Realignment, Patriot League Expansion & Realignment, Pioneer Football League Expansion & Realignment, SEC Expansion & Realignment, SoCon Expansion & Realignment, Southland Expansion & Realignment, Summit League Expansion & Realignment, Sun Belt Expansion & Realignment, SWAC Expansion & Realignment, WAC Expansion & Realignment, WCC Expansion & Realignment

The Conference Realignment & Expansion Chronicles – 5/12/03


-by Matthew Peloquin

Over the past few weeks every major publication has included their predictions as to how the recent conference expansion rumors will play out. For the past 3 years, we’ve all participated on the Conference Realignment and Expansion Forum, making it the most popular and regularly visited sites for such a subject. We share opinions, news leaks and other related information that has helped shape our opinions.

Since all the so-called expert sports writers have been taking their stabs at the general topic of Re-Alignment, I thought it would be best if there real professionals give it a try. This site was formed three years ago, because Expansion and Re-alignment were topics of much interest for me. Judging by the regular traffic and posters who visit, many of you share a similar passion for this topic (and yes, many of the most interested site members are fans from some of the “fringe” schools like Louisville, Marshall, UCF, etc). What I’ve learned for myself and what I’ve learned from all of you have all gone into what you are about to read.

The recent Miami to the ACC rumblings have brought extra attention to our community. Everyone has their own opinions as to how the various scenarios are going to play out. This is one of those opinions. Enjoy.

Part 1: The ACC Power Holders

There have been rumors floating around the internet realm for some time now regarding Miami and the ACC. After years of speculation, it is as close to reality as it has ever been. We’ve heard about the “7 votes” issue. Duke and UNC will vote against expansion. NC State, Maryland and UVA are all said to be wavering, but closer to yes votes than no votes. There are subplots, like UVA wanting VA Tech rather than Boston College. As is life, nobody is completely happy. But one thing is for sure….if Miami wants in, they will be in…and here’s why.

Mike Tranghese has refused all interview requests since the Miami flirtation has become public. As it appeared publicly that Miami was leaning towards leaving the Big East, we learned about the “backup” plan by the Big East schools. With this scenario, all the football playing members of the Big East would essentially oust the non-football schools. They have the voting advantage and could do so. There might be certain bylaws to protect such an action, but none have been reported publicly yet. It’s doubtful that the non-football playing members would want to give up any automatic NCAA berths just because the football schools forced them out. In today’s “sue first” society, the non-football schools would certainly fight this out to the end.

This is why the most likely scenario for a proactive Big East football would be to simply leave and form a new conference. the money they would make by having a football and basketball television contract would be enough to put aside any loss of an automatic birth. So the league would consist of these members: Miami, Syracuse, Boston College, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, UConn (2005), WVU and VA Tech.

8 schools, All sports.

But we all know WHY conferences such as the ACC are considering expansion: to get to 12 teams and to reap the benefits (10 million of them) of a conference championship game. This is where it could get real interesting. During all the recent expansion talk, there is one point that hasn’t made its’ way to the surface yet: Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson hold all the cards.

Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech have been the most vocal regarding expansion over the past decade. ACC commissioner John Swofford sees the advantages and is pushing hard for ACC expansion.

So if the ACC schools, other than Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech vote against expansion, what is to stop these 3 football-first schools from leaving the ACC?

One could argue that combining these 3 schools with the football playing members of the Big East could result in an all-sports conference that would be superior to either the current Big East or ACC.

North:
Boston College
UConn
Syracuse
Rutgers
Temple
Pitt

South:
WVU
VA Tech
Georgia Tech
Clemson
Miami
Florida State

And where would that leave the ACC? Helpless.

Maryland
UVA
Duke
UNC
Wake Forest
NC Sta
te

Football would fall to near Sunbelt status and the league would lose any chance at a lucrative television contract after 2005, when the existing one expires. The optimist might mention potential replacements like Louisville, Vanderbilt, and even Kentucky. While Kentucky and even Louisville would help basketball, it wouldn’t help football. Basketball is king and always will be in the ACC, but the conference can’t afford to let football die out altogether. And there are no combinations of CUSA, MAC or Sunbelt teams that the conference would be able to bring in that would help football enough to retain BCS status AND keep basketball at the desired level.

Just look at the candidates and ask yourself this: If the ACC voted against Miami, Syracuse and Boston College, where the only negative would be losing home and home series with all the teams (2 – 6 team divisions would be formed), do you see the ACC bringing in any non-Big East schools? Could Memphis, Louisville, ECU, Marshall, Tulane, USF: A) get the votes, B) be worth bringing in the first place?

So you see where the Miami situation has taken us. It’s that simple: Swofford, FSU, Clemson and Georgia Tech control the future of college football as we know it. Even a quick glance should show the potential “No voters” at UNC, Duke, Wake, NC State, Maryland and UVA that there is only 1 choice. Bring in the 3 Big East schools or face a diminished future.
All that has to be done to make this happen is A) Miami agrees to the move and B) Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech threaten to walk if the 3 schools aren’t added. Its plain and simple.

And what makes this all the more humorous is that the supposed leaks out of the Big East offices about a proactive split between football and basketball schools, even if Miami stays, could make it even easier for the ACC to get it’s 7 votes. If there were no fallback option setup, that would be favorable for FSU, GT and Clemson, chances are the ACC would vote “no”, and the 2 conferences would remain as they were. But with the Big East football members considering a split from St. Johns, Seton Hall, Providence, Georgetown, Villanova, and Notre Dame, they are further opening the eyes of the ACC presidents as to what the future could hold. Rather than watch their football cash-cow Florida State leave, as well as its large market Georgia Tech program in Atlanta, and Clemson, they will see the light and vote YES to the proposed 3 team expansion. Revenue will increase by many millions, exposure will stretch over the entire east coast and the only negative will be the loss of annual home-and-home series in basketball.

This is the reality. This is the ACC cycle. Those who oppose expansion within the ACC are going to have to put that aside and allow the change to take place. The remaining members can enjoy their annual home and home series at the expense of millions of dollars and the loss of 3 of its teams.

—————————————————————
FOLLOW UP:

Today, May 13th, the ACC has vote “YES” to expand to 12. The only hold up right now is convincing everyone that in addition to Miami, Syracuse AND Boston College should be included, rather than VA Tech.

Congrats to the ACC powers-that-be for stating their case and convincing the majorit ythat this is the right decision.

Now we play the waiting game…
—————————————————————

Part 2: The Ripple Effect in 1A Football Conferences – ACC->Big East->CUSA->WAC

The ACC: Birth of a Superpower
Big East Football: Rest In Pieces
From The Ashes.A New Conference
Big East Basketball: Return of the New and Improved
CUSA: Capitalize on Becoming Regionalized
WAC: Prepare for Reinforcements
Sunbelt Football: D.O.A.

In 1997, when the foursome of Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M; and Baylor left the Southwest Conference for the Big Eight, it marked the largest power shift in college sports. Since that time, the SEC and Big 12 have proven to be the two dominant powers in college sports. Expansion is not an exact science though. Just adding teams isn’t enough to raise a conferences level. The Mountain West formed once the 8 WAC members realized that a 16-team conference covering 5 time zones was just too difficult. The schools did not exist in the same regions and many were completely different in academic makeup. In 1995 CUSA formed. This mix of schools was basically those who had not received conference spots and existed as independents. To preserve the basketball traditions of the previous Metro and Great Midwest conferences, 4 non-football schools were added to keep existing markets. Then you have the Big East. A basketball conference that in 1990 decided to sponsor football by inviting Miami. As the decade progressed the football only schools of Rutgers, WVU and VA Tech were added as full members, expanding the conferences
number to 14. The MAC has maintained its regional presence in the shadows of the Big Ten, growing to 14 teams with 1 football only member in Orlando. The WAC members have come and gone, and when the Big West dropped football, the Sunbelt came around to provide life support for this wayward group of outsiders. Throughout all of these changes, there has only been one conference to remain the same: the ACC. Since adding Florida State in 1990, the Acc has remained at 9 for all sports. Now, unlike any other time in the past, the future of ALL the college conferences rest in the votes of the 9 ACC schools. The hour is upon us and the ACC is beckoning for Miami.

The ACC: Birth of a Superpower
The flirtation of the ACC and Miami has been a two-way process. Both schools see the benefits of a merger. But in order to truly reap the rewards, the ACC must add a total of 3 members. Syracuse, the 2003 NCAA basketball champions and Boston College top the list of candidates. It’s being said that Miami has had some say as to whom the other 2 would be. When you consider who is available: Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers, UConn, Temple, Marshall, ECU, WVU, VA Tech, USF, Memphis, Tulane, Louisville, etc, Boston College and Syracuse remain the most attractive due to overall athletic and academics as well as market presence.

ACC
North:
*Boston College
*Syracuse
Maryland
UVA
Georgia Tech
Clemson

South:
*Miami
Florida State
UNC
Wake Forest
Duke
NC State

So assuming that this marriage does happen, how will each other conference be affected?

Big East football: Rest In Pieces
The first place we look at is the existing Big East. There are 8 football-playing members, but only Pitt has been in the Big East for all sports for more than 15 years. UConn is set to join in football in 2005 and has long standing rivalries with the Big East basketball schools and Syracuse. UConn made a daring move 5 years ago, when they accepted an offer by the Big East to all it’s 1-AA football playing members. The Big East stated that if Georgetown, St. Johns, Villanova, or UConn (only Seton Hall and Providence are without 1-AA football) would like to upgrade their programs to 1-A, that they would be invited to participate in the Big East as full football members. Only UConn accepted and has spent millions making the necessary upgrades. They have even gone as far as building a new football stadium in East Hartford, some 45 minutes from the college campus in Storrs, just to assure they will be able to sell tickets. Their commitment might now be in vein as the Big East might be on life support.

If Miami, Syracuse and Boston College leave, the Big East will contain 6 non-football schools and 5 football schools (UConn replaces Temple in 2005). If the Big East wanted to continue to sponsor football, it would HAVE to be approved by the non-football schools. If the league remained as it is, the non-football members might be content with their 11-team conference. They could have more home and home series between members on an annual basis. But it’s doubtful that the football members should be able to exist and independent teams, forever outside the BCS, looking for the next big change. That would be unlikely. And the Big East non-football schools of Providence, St. johns, Seton hall, Villanova, Georgetown and Notre Dame certainly might want to improve the conference by upgrading the basketball schools of Rutgers, WVU, and VA Tech. Losing Pitt and especially UConn would be a blow, but they could secure similar markets or gain new ones by considering replacements such as UMass (MA/Boston), URI (Providence), Xavier (Cincinnati), Dayton, DePaul (Chicago), Marquette (Milwaukee), Richmond, Old Dominion (Norfolk).

So the Big East will have to make a decision: keep football and the football members or force/assist them out and replace them with stronger basketball programs that better fit the identity of the conference.

From the Ashes.A New Conference
In either scenario, the Big East football-playing members would need additional football programs. This is why it would seem more likely that the football members would brave out a 5-year period of no automatic basketball berth, and start a new conference. This might not be too bad of an option when you look at some of the other non-BCS conferences. These schools could easily recruit 2 of the top programs in CUSA, Louisville and Cincinnati. Temple, a member of the Big East in football only, could be added for all sports. In order to grab even an outside shot at a BCS berth, the league would have to go against WVU’s wishes and invite Marshall. They are clearly one of the strongest football members from a non-BCS conference, along with Louisville. Cincinnati won’t hurt football, but would add to the basketball balance. So the new
conference would look like this.

New Conference: “creative” marketing will probably copy what the MWC and name this the Appalachian East Conference

UConn
Rutgers
Temple
Pitt
WVU
VA Tech
Louisville
Cincinnati
Marshall
Memphis

East Carolina would remain an option, however one would think that in order to preserve a stronger basketball tradition, Memphis could get the spot. Memphis is also a more attractive market than Greenville, NC.

And while UConn, Rutgers and Temple won’t help much in football, they do provide markets and respectable basketball programs, UConn being one of the best in the country. Sacrifices have to be made to find an acceptable balance of basketball and football schools and this is the only logical mix. It additionally includes some strong markets: UConn (CT/NY), Rutgers (NY/NJ), Temple (Philadelphia), Pittsburgh, Louisville, Cincinnati and Memphis.

Calhoun, Chaney, Pitino, Huggins and Calipari all in 1 conference. That’s as good a group of 5 as in any conference in the country.

By now we know that the only way to justify larger conferences is to have 12 members and a championship game. This new league could make that so by adding both Army and Navy as the 11th and 12th members. While this would not be likely.

North:
UConn
Army
Rutgers
Temple
Pitt
WVU

South:
Navy
VA Tech
Louisville
Cincinnati
Marshall
Memphis

In order to maintain some balance of power for football, and the Pitt/WVU rivalry, Navy would compete in the south division. Creative scheduling will have to make sure that WVU and VA Tech continue to play on an annual basis.

However, by adding Army and Navy, to a mix that already includes Uconn, Rutgers and Temple, would leave only 7 legitimate football programs out of 12. This probably wouldn’t be worth any money that could be made having a championship game.

Big East Basketball: Return of the New and Improved
So we have our new conference made up of the football members of the Big East. What happens to the rest of the Big East? In addition to keeping the Big East moniker, the conference that prides itself on basketball, will have more flexibility. These 6 members will have to only add 2-3 new programs. It was the basketball members who objected most to the football minded expansion of the Big East to 14 teams for all-sports. A comfortable 9 team league would have the option to either maintain it’s current markets or to branch out into new ones such as Chicago (DePaul), Milwaukee (Marquette), St. Louis, Richmond, Norfolk (Old Dominion), Cincinnati (Xavier) or Dayton. The only drawback with these options would be the increase in travel costs. The Big East could make a safer choice and invite Atlantic 10 members, public schools, with no 1-A football aspirations. The traditions and markets that could be provided by UMass (MA/Boston) and URI (Providence) would cut back on travel costs. Richmond, Xavier, or Dayton could be included as the 9th team.

But in the end, stability and locality will be pushed aside for money and exposure. The remaining Big East schools of Providence, St. Johns, Seton Hall, Villanova, Georgetown and Notre Dame will add DePaul, Marquette and Xavier so that they can tap into the larger Chicago, Milwaukee and Cincinnati markets.

Big East:
Providence
St. Johns
Seton Hall
Villanova
Georgetown
Notre Dame
* DePaul
* Marquette
* Xavier

The loss of Uconn and Syracuse will greatly hurt the regional presence of northeast basketball. DePaul, Marquette and Xavier are above average additions, but alone do not make up for the loss of Uconn and Syracuse. What does make this a better conference is the removal of West Virginia, Rutgers and VA Tech, three of the lower rated programs since joining the Big East. A classic example of addition by subtraction.

CUSA: Capitalize on Becoming Regionalized
Now we have a complete 12 team ACC, a new 12-team all-sports conference, and a revamped Big East made up of 9 basketball schools. Thus far, the conference that has been “poached” the most is the one everyone would expect: CUSA. CUSA football was put together in 1995 with the independent leftovers. It is only fitting that when opportunities open up, that they will be the priority schools.

After the mentioned changes, the remaining CUSA members are:
Tulane
ECU
USF

USM
UAB
TCU
Houston
Non-football members Charlotte and St. Louis.

Nobody likes change, but as has become a trend here, the new conference formations need to have stronger regional ties. CUSA can take advantage of the unfortunate raiding by strengthening and forming a stronger regional identity. The Southwest Conference was as strong as it was in the past because of such a regional identity. Since it’s breakup, many of the former members have had their athletic programs take major steps backwards. Once they are partially reunited, attendance numbers will rise and while they might never reach BCS status, they will no longer suffer from lack of fan interest.

CUSA will also want to take advantage of a 12-team format to assure a championship game payoff:

CUSA
West:
TCU
SMU
UTEP
Houston
Rice
Tulsa

East:
Tulane
LA Tech
Southern Miss
UAB
South Florida
East Carolina

The goal of non-BCS conferences is to reach BCS status. But perhaps these schools need to take a new approach. By increasing the level of fan interest at each school, through the strengthening of regional rivalries, you increase the fan interest and overall revenue. Increased revenue could lead to a better on the field product which in turn could benefit the conference in general.

Perhaps it will be time to change the name of Conference USA to something more fitting of this football rich region, stretching across the gulf coast, form Florida to Texas. This new Gulf Conference (actually this IS the true Sunbelt region) would have teams smack down in the middle of the 3 most powerful leagues: the SEC, ACC, and the Big 12.

WAC: Prepare the Reinforcements
As movement plays out, the WAC will again find themselves in the position to replace teams, a place they’ve been familiar with. Added to this problem is that the WAC has a few members such as San Jose State who are in danger of losing 1A status. In losing LA Tech, Tulsa, Rice, UTEP and SMU, they are practically calling for a merge with the Sunbelt. The Sunbelt is currently expanded about as far as it can while retaining their basketball only members. The WAC could easily take some Sunbelt football members to replenish their numbers.until the MWC comes looking for more teams:

WAC:
Boise State
Nevada
* Idaho
San Jose State
* Utah State
Hawaii
* New Mexico State
* North Texas

(Notice anyone missing? Fresno State will be addressed in the Part 3 of the Expansion Chronicles.)

Despite the addition of North Texas, the league would form a stronger western presence by losing the numerous Texas schools and replacing them with Idaho, Utah State and New Mexico State. The 8 team WAC would never gain BCS status, but could have the option to add non-football members from other conferences although it’s doubtful that that only regional conference teams (Big West, WCC, Big Sky) would ever leave.

The WAC would have a second option: Add ALL the Sunbelt teams in an attempt to grow to 12 teams and have a championship game. Essentially, this would be the same situation the Sunbelt is in. If Idaho legislation allows the university to join the Sunbelt as a full member, the conference will stretch from Florida Atlantic to New Mexico State to Idaho, covering more territory and forcing more travel than any other conference to date.

Divisions could be setup to help some of these problems:

WAC:
North:
Boise State
Nevada
* Idaho
San Jose State
* Utah State
Hawaii

South:
* New Mexico State
* North Texas
* Arkansas St
* Louisiana – Lafayette
* Middle Tennessee State
* Troy State

Sunbelt: D.O.A.
Should the WAC expand and add teams from the Sunbelt, the conference would have no choice but to drop football. The remaining football playing members would have to participate as independents. When the league formed it was basically a collection of 1AA upgrades and a few left out of the MAC and CUSA. There are very few options left.

One thing is for certain. If the Mountain West Conference expanded to 12, and invited such schools as Fresno State, Boise State, Hawaii and Utah State, the WAC and Sunbelt football schools would have to give some serious though to an all-out merger, and include Troy State in the move. It’s the only way most of the schools could survive the new 1A criteria.

Nevada
Idaho
San Jose State
New Mexico State
North Texas
Arkansas St
Louisiana – Lafayette
Middle Tennessee State
Troy State

 

Part 3: The First Move, Proactive & Reactive Conferences, Small But Stable

A) The First Move: Could the Mountain West Conference make an announcement before the ACC?
B) A Proactive Big Ten = a Reactive Pac 10
C) Small But Stable

The First Move:
Could the Mountain West Conference make an announcement before the ACC?

Mountain West Conference officials have been discussing expansion prior to the start of the ACC rumors. Fresno State has topped their list for some time, and might be followed up by Hawaii, despite the distance of the school. A strong Boise State school has moved it’s way close to a tie with Hawaii according to officials, but there has been nothing to indicate that the Mountain West will even decide to expand by more than 1 team. They have taken a careful approach to expansion and have worked with the BCS so that moves are only made that could help them reach BCS status. Anything else would just be diluting the current revenues. So look for the Mountain West to expand by just one: Fresno State. Boise State and Hawaii might not be far behind, but unless there is a viable 4th option (to expand to 12) there are just no benefits. Unless Utah State is able to make a strong run with their new Sunbelt membership, they won’t be considered either.

Mountain West:
Utah
Colorado St
BYU
Air Force
New Mexico
San Diego State
Wyoming
UNLV
*Fresno State

What does this mean for the WAC? No different than if CUSA came calling: they’d be forced to raid the Sunbelt for replacements such as Utah State, New Mexico State and others. It’s doubtful that the WAC will ever look to increase beyond 8 – 10 schools unless there was an all out merger with the Sunbelt football schools.

A Proactive Big Ten.
To the casual observer, the Miami situation looks to have the most impact. But while all this is going on, you have the Big Ten, sitting there at 11 schools. The Pac Ten has stated that they will only look to expand if the Big Ten does first. The Big Ten is rumored to be making one last push for Notre Dame. If that fails, Pittsburgh and Missouri will be available for invites.

Ripples will still form if this happened. Either the Big East/New Conference would need a replacement for Pitt or the Big 12 would need one of Missouri. With that, CUSA, MWC or WAC might be looking for replacements, and so on. Eventually, the lowest rated conference will be the one short a member, and that looks to be the Sunbelt, with the MAC not far behind if someone has interest in Toledo or Ohio.

Big Ten:
West:
Iowa
Illinois
Northwestern
Wisconsin
Minnesota
*Missouri / Pittsburgh / Louisville / Notre Dame / Iowa State

East
Purdue:
Indiana
Michigan
Michigan State
Penn State
Ohio State

Big East:
If Pitt left, it would probably be at the same time as Miami, Syracuse and BC. So any new Big East football conference would need a need an additional member from CUSA or MAC.

Big 12:
If Missouri left would add either UTEP, Colorado St, Utah, BYU, Louisville, etc

MWC:
If Colorado St, Utah, BYU left for the Big 12, MWC would add either Fresno St, Hawaii, UTEP, Boise State

CUSA:
If Louisville left for Big Ten or Big 12, would add Marshall or a WAC school.

WAC:
If UTEP, Fresno St, Boise State, UTEP or Hawaii left, would add Utah State, New Mexico State, Idaho, or any Sunbelt school.

.a Reactive Pac 10
If the Pac 10 expanded to 12, the MWC would be the first target, unless the conference preferred Fresno State, Hawaii or Boise State. In a PC climate, it wouldn’t be surprising to see pressure put on the California schools by the state to push hard for San Diego State and Fresno State. Chances are that Utah, BYU, San Diego State, UNLV and Colorado State would top that list unless the PAC 10 could convince Colorado to join. This would start a chain reaction moving west to east.

Pac 10
North:
Washington
Washington St
Oregon
Oregon St
*Utah / Colorado St / BYU / UNLV
*Fresno St / Hawaii / San Diego State/ New Mexico

South:
Stanford
California
UCLA

USC
Arizona
Arizona State

If this happened.

MWC:
If Colorado St, Utah, BYU. San Diego St, UNLV left for the Pac 10, would add either Fresno St, Hawaii, UTEP, Boise State

WAC:
If UTEP, Fresno St, Boise State, UTEP or Hawaii left for MWC or PAC 10, would add Utah State, New Mexico State, Idaho, or any Sunbelt school.

For the Big Ten and Pac 10 to expand it is fairly simple when comparing it to the effects Miami, Syracuse and BC joining the ACC could have. The movement is more limited and doesn’t involve the quantity of teams since the (2) conferences only have room for 1 and 2 schools.

Nonetheless, when the Big Ten expands to 12, it will turn on the green light for the Pac 10 and when all is said and done there will be movement by quite a few teams: 1 from CUSA/Big East/Big 12 to the Big Ten, 1 from CUSA/Big East/Big 12 to replace the school leaving for the Big Ten, 1 to replace that team in CUSA/WAC/MWC, and so on. The same pattern exists for the Pac 10.

Small In Stature, But Stable
During all the expansion rumors there’s one conference that you never hear about. No it’s not the SEC.there are fans who think they should expand to 14 and add Texas and Texas A&M.; The Big 12? No, many have the same theory regarding potential benefits for a 14 team league. The conference least likely to feel any ill effects is the MAC.

The MAC, a 16 team conference nested in the middle of Big Ten country COULD lose Marshall to CUSA, the Big East or a new conference. And they COULD lose Central Florida to any of the same leagues. And they could even lose 4-6 teams to the new 1-A criteria. But even if all of these scenarios played out, they’d still have 8-10 teams that will continue to play 1A football in an all sports conference. The effects won’t even be too harsh, outside of losing perennial conference powerhouse Marshall. They’d be losing a football only member in UCF, and potentially losing their weakest football programs to the new 1-A criteria.

In a sea of uncertainty, where the Big Boys hold all the power, it’s one of the little guys who will remain in the end, and not the conference of this years basketball champion and 2001 football champion.

 

Part 4: Once the 1-A football conference and the Big East settle, what does that leave for the non-football schools/conferences?

So we’ve virtually covered all 1-A football related movement, and the Big East basketball conference. But what about the remaining non-football leagues and programs? How will they be effected?

Atlantic 10:
Atlantic 10 commissioner Linda Bruno released a press statement this week stating that the Atlantic 10 will look to add the Big East basketball schools should they leave the Big East. This is a bold move and probably very unlikely. You still have to commend her and the league for taking such a proactive stance. Under this scenario, the Atlantic 10 would initially grow from 12 to 17. The most likely scenario would be that they would have to force out 1 member immediately to go to 16. While St. Bonaventure would seem the most logical, the league might need to force out Fordham to appease St. Johns, the crown jewel of the Big East 5, or LaSalle, so that Villanova wouldn’t become the 4th Philadelphia school.

North:
UMass
* Providence
URI
St. Bonaventure
* St. Johns
* Seton Hall
Temple
St. Josephs

South:
* Villanova
LaSalle
* Georgetown
George Washington
Richmond
Duquesne
Xavier
Dayton

Should Notre Dame be part of the Big East package (doubtful, since the 6 schools would probably retain the Big East name if that were the case), they could be added with St. Bonaventure eliminated as well.

In some of the previous scenarios, only Charlotte and St. Louis from CUSA remain homeless, and the Atlantic 10 would have lost Xavier and Temple. The logical choice of Charlotte and St. Louis might be to just join with the remaining Atlantic 10 schools. The conference would add the Charlotte and St. Louis markets to their group that already includes Boston, Providence, Buffalo, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Richmond, Pittsburgh and Dayton, losing only Cincinnati with the Xavier loss.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) the 4 basketball schools of CUSA, St. Louis, Charlotte, Depaul and Marquette have declared that they will remain together during any realignment.

So that would eliminate any scenario such as:

Atlantic 10:
North:
UMass

URI
St. Bonaventure
Fordham
St. Josephs
LaSalle

South:
George Washington
Richmond
* Charlotte
Dayton
Duquesne
* St. Louis

But what if the Big East basketball schools didn’t want all 4 CUSA schools due to travel expenses and instead chose Xavier, Dayton, Umass and Richmond (Temple and St. Joseph’s would have difficulties since Villanova would likely block them). The 4 CUSA schools could team with the remaining Atlantic 10:

Atlantic 10:
North:
URI
St. Bonaventure
Fordham
St. Josephs
LaSalle
Temple

South:
* Depaul
* Marquette
* Charlotte
George Washington
Duquesne
* St. Louis

Another option for the Atlantic 10 is looking for replacements would be to add CAA schools. They do have a pact to stay together (more below in the CAA section), but money has a way of changing peoples minds.

Delaware would be one of the first targets. It’s unknown as to if they would even except an offer. They do not condone the use partial qualifying players and might take a hard stance. Old Dominion, in the Norfolk market is a popular choice as well. And while like Fordham, Hofstra barely offers the New York market, they do have more upside than some of the other schools and offer a second New York option. UNCW, the top program in the CAA might be passed over due to travel concerns. JMU participates in both football and basketball and could be an option as well.

If only Xavier and Dayton left.

North:
Umass
URI
St. Bonaventure
Fordham
Hofstra
St. Josephs

South:
LaSalle
Duquesne
Delaware
George Washington
Richmond
Old Dominion

And while its not likely, what of the Atlantic 10 if Umass, URI (to CAA), Xavier and Temple left? The remaining members would be:

St. Bonaventure
Fordham
St. Josephs
LaSalle
George Washington
Richmond
Dayton
Duquesne

* Boston University
St. Bonaventure
Fordham
St. Josephs
LaSalle
George Washington
Richmond
Dayton
Duquesne
* Butler

Dayton might be tempted to join the Horizon or Missouri Valley Conference, but the benefit of the Atlantic 10 would be greater.

The America East conference could get a replacement for BU by taking a school such as Mt. St. Mary’s (to serve as a travel partner with UMBC), or add another CT school such as Quinnipiac, Fairfield, Central Connecticut State. If the Atlantic 10 loses schools, they could also push hard for Rhode Island to join with current regional schools Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Boston University and Northeastern.

More CUSA Basketball Options:
Since the CUSA schools seem set on staying together, they eliminate many individual opportunities out there. Essentially, the 4 have only a handful of choices:
1) Remain with CUSA, even if other schools leave
2) ALL join with the Big East basketball schools
3) ALL join the Atlantic 10
4) ALL join another conference such as the MVC or Horizon
5) Start a NEW conference with other teams

Scenario 2 would be appealing to everyone, but might not be practical for travel purposes. The private schools don’t have the football revenue to justify the extreme travel budget increases.

Scenario 5 could be an interesting one. The CUSA4 could recruit programs such as Creighton, Butler, Detroit, Western Kentucky and perhaps get Xavier and Dayton as well. The last two might be more difficult since they have been enjoying more east coast exposure as part of the Atlantic 10.

Depaul
Marquette
St. Louis
Charlotte
Western Kentucky
Creighton
Butler
Detroit
Xavier
Dayton

Colonial Athletic Association:
The CAA, which has been considering further expansion since it added Delaware, Drexel, Towson and Hofstra, could make a strong push to finally grab UMass and URI from the Atlantic 10 should those schools be left out of any Big East plan. Both Umass and URI have virtually topped the CAA l
ist since the league made it clear they would like to sponsor 1AA football. Northeastern and College of Charleston have been the probable choices thus far, but that could change.

*UMass
*URI
Hofstra
Drexel
Delaware
Towson

George Mason
JMU
VCU
William & Mary
Old Dominion
UNCW

In many of the scenarios being bounced around out there, Umass has been linked to the Big East basketball programs as a potential replacement for the Boston market. If the Atlantic 10 went through changes and lost Umass in addition to any others such as Temple, Xavier, Dayton and St. Josephs, URI might consider the CAA. URI is only 1 of 3 state schools in the conference along with Umass and Temple. The CAA might be a better fit if this happened:

North:
*URI
Hofstra
Drexel
Delaware
Towson
George Mason

South:
JMU
VCU
William & Mary
Old Dominion
UNCW
* College of Charleston

And intriguing change could involve some major changes within the conference. The CAA schools all signed an agreement once Richmond left that basically bound the schools together. With the recent rumblings around the Big East, this could hinder many of the programs.

The CAA is in a position where if they were able to oust a handful of members, and convince others to join, they could develop a solid basketball/1-AA football conference. The problem being that it would be near impossible to remove programs and just as difficult for any interest to leave to start a new league (ODU for example would have to pay nearly 1 million). And Richmond might not be too welcome there, but we’ve seen schools leave conferences for a year or two only to return. Some schools of interest would be:

* UMass
* URI
* Hofstra
Drexel
* Delaware
* Towson
George Mason
* Richmond
VCU
* JMU
* Richmond
* William & Mary
Old Dominion
UNCW
College of Charleston
* = 1AA football schools

If it were at all possible to remove Towson or Drexel, the CAA could put together a formidable lineup:

North:
* UMass
* URI
* Hofstra
Drexel
* Delaware
George Mason
* Richmond

South:
* JMU
* Richmond
VCU
* William & Mary
Old Dominion
UNCW
College of Charleston

Any such scenario for the CAA is a real stretch. There’s probably a 99% chance that the league will just add Northeastern (plays 1AA football) and College of Charleston to expand to 12 teams. The league would then be able to field 1AA football and divide into (2) divisions:

North:
* Northeastern
* Hofstra
Drexel
* Delaware
* Towson
George Mason

South:
* JMU
VCU
* William & Mary
Old Dominion
UNCW
College of Charleston

A move that hasn’t been considered as much has been to strengthen the leagues southern exposure. One could argue that in their attempt to sponsor 1AA football, the league has lost site of the sport that has the opportunity to best further the conference: basketball. Add in schools like UNC-Greensboro and College of Charleston would expand the league to 12, add 2 more southern markets, and make improve the league.

North:
* Hofstra
Drexel
* Delaware
* Towson
George Mason
* JMU

South:
VCU
* William & Mary
Old Dominion
UNCW
UNC-Greensboro
College of Charleston

If they are going to make football such a high priority, Appalachian State could provide that 6th team and a decent basketball program. They are only a few years removed from the Buzz Peterson years:

North:
* Hofstra
Drexel
* Delaware
* Towson
George Mason
* JMU

South:
VCU
* William & Mary
Old Dominion

UNCW
* Appalachian St.
College of Charleston

Sunbelt:
As mentioned in part 2 of the editorial, the Sunbelt has made many changes recently and starting in 2005, could cover an full membership footprint that stretches from Florida to New Mexico to Idaho. For non-football members like Western Kentucky, New Orleans, South Alabama and Arkansas-Little Rock, there are little benefits to participating in such a conference. There aren’t too many group options for these schools, although each could be considered for other conferences as individuals. Western Kentucky remains the top option due to recent & past success and a strong fan base. The MVC or Horizon would seem to be logical fits for WKU. New Orleans offers entry into that market for a conference, as does Arkansas – Little Rock. Both schools would have harder times finding moves that would be upgrades or even equal moves. Either could be considered if the MVC looked to expand it’s footprint. But the Atlantic Sun might be a more practical home for Ala

Missouri Valley Conference:
The MVC has experienced a rise in their collective RPI recently and has burst onto the scene as a legitimate player dispersed throughout Big XII and Big Ten territory. The league could take the next step by finding ways to further increase their presence in the region through the acquisition of a pair of strong programs with either a strong fan base or larger market access.

The 2 schools who could make that possible for the MVC are Western Kentucky and Butler. WKU is historically one of the winningest basketball programs in the country. With an invite, they could leave the Sunbelt which has it’s own issues now regarding football and the new 1A criteria. WKU would have to decide it’s own football future: is it 1AA or a 1A upgrade. The second school, Butler, located in Indianapolis, is coming off a sweet 16 run and a second straight NCAA appearance. The best publicity for a program is winning games, and winning them in the tournament means even more.

East:
Butler
Evansville
Indiana State
Western Kentucky
Bradley
Southern Illinois

West:
Illinois State
Drake
Northern Iowa
SMS
Wichita State
Creighton

Grid of Realignment Possibilities:
As we make our way down the chain of the major conferences, we start to see some minor ripples in the mid-major pool.

For a fringe 1A conference like the Sunbelt, basketball remains the only sure constant. It would be wise for schools like Western Kentucky, New Orleans and South Alabama to remain aware of any changes within the existing Sunbelt. Conferences like the MVC, which have been rising up in the RPI would become even stronger with the addition of a school such as Western Kentucky.

In the MAC, there are an abundance of teams (15 all sports, 16 football). There is a chance that 4-6 could be headed out of the 1A designation. Since many of these schools have similar fits within the MAC, there would remain the chance that even if they failed to maintain 1A status, they could stay for all-sports other than football. If that weren’t the case, schools such as Buffalo, Kent State, etc would look at regional conferences such as the Horizon, MVC, and perhaps even the Summit League or OVC.

For more detailed possibilities for schools in conferences such as the America East, MCC, MVC, OVC, SoCon, and others, be sure to read the Grid of Realignment Possibilities at CollegeSportsInfo.com .

 

Matthew Peloquin can be contacted at email@collegesportsinfo.com.

Other Articles of Interest:

New I-AA Football Conference Plans Nearly Finalized– 1/23/04
A Look Back at Conference Realignment 2003 -1/21/04

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