New teams in new leagues: Conference realignment is here
Since it's July 1, that means college conferences officially begin anew in their calendars -- and many, many teams now have new homes.
All that news and scare and clangor of conference shifting in recent years has led to this day, July 1, when programs transport from one league to another. It's moving day in college athletics, and the shape of things to come is officially grooving in with the mortar.
It's Monday, and the American Athletic Conference is officially open for business.
The new Big East is also assembled, a 10-team league without football. (Website still coming soon, I see.)
And the Atlantic 10 goes back to being a notch below first-rate.
And the Great West ceases to exist. (RIP, G-dub.)
There are approximately half-a-hundred teams who've made conversions in allegiances, the most in a single offseason in NCAA history. So let's clear this up for you and help sort out the turncoats in an effort to keep track of the interconference swapping. Bookmark this page because you'll surely need it again when the season draws near.
The ACC gets Notre Dame (in all but football, natch) plus Pittsburgh and Syracuse. (John Swofford sat down and wrote a letter to mark the occasion.) It still has Maryland for one more season, by the way. And, in a year, Louisville will enter as Maryland exits. And RIP to a classic conference logo.
The American Athletic Conference is going to be an interesting league to watch. No one's quite sure how good or bad it will be. And there's shifting still to come after its first year of existence. For now, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, South Florida, SMU and Temple make up the league. But Louisville and Rutgers are only hanging for a season, then leaving for the ACC and Big Ten, respectively. East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa are a year away. If you're interested in knowing more about the conference, I sat down with its commissioner, Mike Aresco, a month ago.
The Big East will be basketball-driven again, comprised of Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's, Villanova and Xavier. A solid hoops league -- that just hired a commissioner last week. For now, it appears to be stable, though some wonder if the inevitable desire to expand beyond 10 teams won't again shake up other, smaller leagues.
Conference USA has been an amalgam ever since the Big East poached five of its schools nearly a decade ago. The latest defections are Central Florida, Houston, Memphis and SMU, all teams headed to the American. Memphis leaving is something short of a deathblow, but then again, now someone else can step up and try to be the new Memphis. This is practically a new league, really. Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Old Dominion and Texas-San Antonio all unpacking their bags in this manor. Marshall, Rice, Southern Mississippi, UAB and UTEP are remaining members from recent history.
The Missouri Valley had a change for the first time in nearly two decades when Creighton abandoned ship to join the new Big East. That meant the Valley had to import a program to keep the conference at 10 clubs. Loyola of Chicago got the call-up.
The Mountain West will be bringing in two teams: San Jose State and Utah State. The latter has been running hoops game in the WAC for the better part of a decade. It's an upgrade for a conference that was really solid the past two seasons but still needs to consistently prove itself in March.
Those are the big moves; plenty more will affect smaller clubs. And as we draw closer to the start of the season, we'll go into full detail with every program affected and in which conferences. Today is merely the day all decisions made months/years ago become official and the latest plot of the collegiate map gets re-drawn.
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