Here is a quick story from the Sioux Falls, SD newspaper on how Conference Realignment is effecting SDSU's hunt for a home as we move up to D-I.
Big East shake-up affects SDSU
As does the cascade of conference raids taking place across the nation
Forget the usual suspects for a second. Some of the key players in South Dakota State University's search for a Division I conference have been Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College.
Don't roll your eyes yet.
Truth is, when those three schools agreed earlier this year to leave the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference, they set in motion a domino effect that is causing major reverberations among even the smallest Division I conferences.
And that includes the leagues which have been mentioned as possible homes for the SDSU Jackrabbits - the Mid-Continent Conference, the Horizon League and the Big Sky - as they move their athletic programs to Division I.
"The conferences we've been talking to obviously are in a little bit of a wait-and-see mode," SDSU Athletic Director Fred Oien said. "It's simply to see what happens to their own membership, but also what might be left and how that might all be organized."
Consider the chain of events: After Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College bolted from the Big East, that conference moved quickly to find replacements, plundering Conference USA for Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette and DePaul.
"Conference USA saw this as an opportunity to reconfigure itself as a pure (Division) I-A southern-based football-playing conference, and they were able to do that," Big East Commissioner Michael Tranghese said at a press conference. "So when we saw that we might be able to fill our needs, and they, at the same time, would do the same thing - we would not have to reach out to other conferences and be disruptive. To me, it was the best choice that we could possibly make."
Of course, it also was disruptive. Conference USA acted by swiping Rice, Southern Methodist and Tulsa from the Western Athletic Conference. The WAC is now looking at a few Sun Belt Conference schools. And so on, and so on ....
"This conference realignment thing continues to seem to bounce around," St. Louis University Athletic Director Doug Woolard told The Associated Press after moving his basketball-playing school from Conference USA to the Atlantic 10 earlier this week.
Many of those schools play Division I-A football, while SDSU will move into the second-highest classification of I-AA.
Attendance requirements at the I-A level also will affect some conferences after next football season.
Those regulations require football teams in that division to play five home games against other I-A opponents, and mandates that attendance at those games top 15,000 people. Previous rules were based on ticket sales. The attendance requirement could propel a bevy of teams entering I-AA to form new leagues or make other conferences decide to reorganize.
One conference which could be drastically affected is the Mid-American Conference, considered one of the best mid-major football leagues in I-A.
According to NCAA figures from this season, 10 schools nationwide have average attendance totals below 15,000. Half of those universities are in the MAC, which is also a prime target for a raid because of its basketball prowess. That could cause a major split in the 14-team conference, which will already lose Marshall and Central Florida to Conference USA.
SDSU has also discussed forming a I-AA football league with six other schools. A formal meeting to discuss that league is set for Dec. 8-9 in Las Vegas.
"It is an exciting time in intercollegiate athletics," Oien said. "Some people don't like it. But on the other hand, this realignment creates all kinds of new opportunities for everybody."