The Changing College Football Landscape

Conference realignment has shaken up one of America's favorite sports. Some schools scored big time with their moves while programs like Idaho and New Mexico State are getting sacked.

When it comes to conference expansion, retraction, and realignment, there are many changes coming to the sport of college football over the next few seasons. Some of these changes are good, some maybe not so good, and there's one thing that I find downright disturbing (if you follow me on Twitter you know what I'm talking about).

Just in case you haven't been able to keep up with all of the madness (nobody can blame you, there are a LOT of changes), below is a list of each conference and what changes to expect in 2012, 2013, and beyond.

Pac-12
Teams In - None
Teams Out - None

The Pac-12 is one of only two conferences in America that won't be changing membership over the coming seasons. The current home of the Utes made it's biggest splash last year when it added both Utah and Colorado after 30-years of inactivity. Stability will be good for this conference as changes to the BCS and conference media contracts start to take effect.

Big-XII
Teams In - TCU(2012), West Virginia(2012)
Teams Out - Texas A&M(2012), Missouri(2012)

The Big-XII was nearly destroyed when the Pac-10 began talks with it's biggest programs, but when plans fell through the conference was left with just two departing members (Colorado, Nebraska). A year later instability remained and after months of talk Texas A&M decided to split for the SEC, leaving the conference with just 9 teams. Not long after that Missouri chose to follow A&M and the interim-commissioner (after commissioner Dan Beebe was fired) placed calls to TCU and West Virginia, both leaving the Big East to join the Big-XII.

Big Ten
Teams In - None
Teams Out - None

Like the Pac-12, the Big Ten has decided not to expand after it made it's move in 2011. Nebraska was a great addition to the conference which grew to the magic number of 12 teams and added a championship game. Now the Big Ten is able to reap additional revenue while enjoying conference stability amid mass chaos.

Big East
Teams In - Temple(2012), Boise State(2013), UCF(2013), San Diego State(2013), Memphis(2013), Houston(2013), SMU(2013), Navy(2015)
Teams Out - West Virginia(2012), TCU(2012), Syracuse(2013), Pitt(2013)

The Big East had big moves to make once expansion-mania began. It was clear from the very beginning that the big conferences, namely the SEC, Big Ten, and ACC, had eyes on Big East teams if/when they decided to grow. In order to solidify their position among BCS conferences they became proactive and grew both their conference and media footprint adding teams from as far away as California. The Big East is still at risk, but these new additions will definitely help their life expectancy.

ACC
Teams In - Syracuse(2013), Pitt(2013)
Teams Out - None

The ACC was stuck right in the middle of the east-coast expansion madness between the Big Ten, SEC, and the Big East but somehow it came out unscathed. The additions of Syracuse and Pitt seem more precautionary than anything in case the SEC, Big Ten, or Big-XII (rumors already swirling about Clemson and Florida State) come calling for a team or two, but all-in-all this is a conference that isn't at much risk of falling by the wayside.

SEC
Teams In - Texas A&M(2012), Missouri(2012)
Teams Out - None

Everybody understands what the SEC is right now. They've won 6-straight national titles and teams would be stupid to consider leaving the strongest conference in America. A&M and Missouri are decent additions, but initial talks with A&M came back when 16-team leagues were still the hot topic. Now that super-conferences seem to be on the back burner the move to 14 seems like overkill.

Conference USA
Teams In - North Texas(2013), FIU(2013), Louisiana Tech(2013), UT-San Antonio(2013), Charlotte(2015), Old Dominion(2015 - pending acceptance)
Teams Out - UCF(2013), Memphis(2013), SMU(2013), Houston(2013)

Conference USA was a prime pillaging target for eastern BCS conferences looking to add talented up-and-coming programs. In the end though only the Big East dared to dip into the non-AQ ranks when adding teams. The teams CUSA loses are the best of the bunch which will definitely hurt their strength and reputation, but the additions make geographic sense and there's definitely room now for new teams to step up as the conference's best.

MAC
Teams In - UMass(2012)
Teams Out - None

The addition of UMass was a good move for the conference. Prior to 2012 the MAC was operating with 13 teams making its two divisions unbalanced and its scheduling uneven. UMass balances things out and is a quality addition as they've been a powerful FCS program for many years.

Sun Belt
Teams In - South Alabama(2012), Georgia State(2013), Texas State(2013)
Teams Out - FIU(2013), North Texas(2013)

The Sun Belt is a small conference located smack-dab in the middle of the Big-XII, SEC, ACC, and Conference USA. It's made up of programs that survive thanks to the fertile recruiting states of the deep south. None of the additions or subtractions made a lot of news, but they're interesting nonetheless. The Sun Belt will welcome three FCS programs new to D1 over the next two years.

Independent
Teams In - None
Teams Out - Navy(2015)

Mountain West
Teams In - Hawaii(2012), Fresno State(2012), Nevada(2012), Utah State(2013), San Jose State(2013)
Teams Out - TCU(2012), Boise State(2013), San Diego State(2013)

Doesn't it seem like all of expansion-mania started with the little 'ol Mountain West? Sure the big conferences (namely the Big Ten and Pac-10) were the drivers but the real craziness started when Boise State left the WAC, Utah made the jump to the Pac-12, and BYU followed up with its move to independence. This is what REALLY triggered all of the pandemonium. When BYU initially decided to go independent the move included an other-sports agreement with the WAC and behind-the-scenes conversations with SDSU and UNLV asking them to join the WAC as well. These moves would have crippled the Mountain West, so instead they were forced to retaliate by inviting Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada from the WAC. This strengthened it's position as a conference but ultimately killed the rival WAC. There isn't another conference in the country that went through this same amount of turmoil - besides the WAC.

WAC
Teams In - Texas State(2012), UT-San Antonio(2012)
Teams Out - Hawaii(2012), Fresno State(2012), Nevada(2012), Utah State(2013), San Jose State(2013), Louisiana Tech(2013), Texas State(2013), UT-San Antonio(2013)

The situation the WAC now finds itself in is the worst possible scenario. All but two of its teams (Idaho and New Mexico State) have been invited to new homes and after the 2012 season the WAC will cease to exist as a football conference. If you have strong feelings for one of the remaining two programs I feel very sorry for you. Idaho and NMSU have been dealt the death card by their departing WAC conference-mates and now have just two options in front of them - brave the independence trail like Notre Dame, Army, and BYU, or drop down to an FCS conference and continue playing at a lower level of competition. In all honesty neither team could survive independence which makes their only legitimate choice a drop to FCS and a very tragic, ugly, and embarrassing exit from FBS football. The NCAA should be ashamed of the way conference re-alignment has played out. It may have worked out for 99% of schools, but the relegation or death of even one program is one too many. The Western Athletic Conference was a conference built on many years of history and brotherhood, but in today's college football world it was eat or be eaten and sadly Idaho and New Mexico State have been forced to pay the ultimate price while everybody else in the WAC, and every other conference across America for that matter, was too worried about their own futures to think about those getting left behind.


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