College football realignment 2023 14 schools moving conferences
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To some, this year's shift in conference membership is just the undercard to next year's realignment main event. Yes, come July 2024, Big 12 flagships Oklahoma and Texas join the SEC, and Pac-12 staples USC and UCLA enter the Big Ten. Still, it's hard to overlook the significant turnover taking place in the college football landscape this time around as 14 programs officially swap league affiliation. 

Changing conferences with eyes on greener pastures can be a difficult ordeal. Just ask San Diego State, which seemed primed to make a Power Five jump, but will remain in the Mountain West for the time being as uncertainty abounds with the Pac-12's murky media rights negotiations. 

The 14 programs that are changing conference hands today come from all walks of life. From tradition-rich programs to Football Bowl Subdivision upstarts, this round of conference realignment features a little bit of everything. Some programs are at last breaking into the FBS after spending years -- decades, in some cases -- at the lower levels of college football. Some are leaving behind an era of independence. And others finally make a long-awaited jump to the Power Five ranks via invitations to the Big 12 Conference.

Here's a look at every new FBS conference member. 

BYU Cougars

Previous conference: FBS independent | New conference: Big 12 

BYU football hasn't been in a conference since 2010. The Cougars were no stranger to Power Five competition during that stretch of independence, which should help them acclimate to their new home. BYU was treated to an appetizer of Big 12 play over the past two seasons, splitting a home-and-home series with Baylor. A healthy portion of BYU's history can be traced back to the Western Athletic Conference (1962-98) and the defunct Skyline Conference (1938-61). The Cougars' most recent conference home was the Mountain West (1998-2010).

Charlotte 49ers 

Previous conference: Conference USA  | New conference: American 

Conference USA is the only FBS league that Charlotte -- a program revitalized in 2013 -- has been part of since earning the promotion from the FCS in 2015. Granted, the 49ers' new home will include plenty of familiar faces since they are one of six Conference USA schools making the jump to the AAC. The 49ers now have some in-state competition, too, with East Carolina checking in among the AAC holdovers. The two North Carolina programs have never clashed the gridiron. Charlotte will embark on its AAC adventure under a new coach after the 49ers hired Biff Poggi to replace Will Healy late last year. 

Cincinnati Bearcats 

Previous conference: American | New conference: Big 12 

The Big 12 is Cincinnati's fourth league since joining Conference USA in 1996. Before that, the Bearcats spent 25 years as an FBS independent. Members of the Big East in 2006 and the AAC in 2013, now comes the journey to the Big 12 alongside existing conference foes Houston and UCF. Cincinnati looked like the bell cow of the Big 12's newcomers with recent success under Luke Fickell that included a College Football Playoff berth in 2021, but that optimism has since been curbed following Fickell's abrupt departure for Wisconsin last November. 

FAU Owls 

Previous conference: Conference USA | New conference: American

This will be the third conference for the Owls, who were members of the Sun Belt from 2005-12 before joining Conference USA in 2013. FAU was independent from the program's 2001 inception through its first year of FBS membership in 2004. The Owls make to the jump to the AAC under the direction of a coach with Power Five experience after hiring ex-Texas Longhorns coach Tom Herman late last year. It's Herman's second go-around in the AAC after he guided Houston to a conference title in 2015.  

Houston Cougars 

Previous conference: American | New conference: Big 12

Eleven years after TCU, another former Southwest Conference member finally receives a seat at the Big 12 table after initially getting left out in the league's formation in the mid 1990s. Between stops in Conference USA (1996-2012) and the AAC (2013-22), Houston enjoyed success under several coaches who went on to take Power Five jobs within the state, peaking at 13 wins in both 2011 under Kevin Sumlin and in 2015 under Herman. Seasons like those put the Cougars on the radar as a potential Big 12 expansion candidate, and that patience has finally paid off. 

Jacksonville State Gamecocks 

Previous conference: ASUN | New conference: Conference USA 

It took a swath of conference memberships and two bouts of independence, but a Jacksonville State program that dates back to 1904 finally has a chance to elevate its profile by joining the FBS. Only a sliver of the Gamecocks' history comes at the NCAA Division I level, which it did not reach until joining the Southland Conference in 1996. Jacksonville State later spent 14 years in the Ohio Valley Conference from 2003-17 before calling the ASUN home for the past two seasons. 

Liberty Flames 

Previous conference: FBS independent | New conference: Conference USA 

Liberty football was independent from the program's inception in 1973 and through its first 13 years as an NCAA Division-I member until joining the Big South in 2002. The Flames then returned to independence upon transitioning to the FBS in 2018. Hugh Freeze won't accompany Liberty in the move after leaving to take the Auburn job late last year, but the Flames replaced him with another proven winner in Coastal Carolina's Jamey Chadwell. Over the past three seasons, the Chanticleers won 31 games and a conference title with Chadwell as coach. Don't be surprised if he quickly turns Liberty into a Conference USA contender.

New Mexico State Aggies 

Previous conference: FBS independent | New conference: Conference USA 

New Mexico State made stops in five different conferences -- most recently a second stint in the Sun Belt from 2014-17 -- before going independent in 2018. The Aggies enter Conference USA with some momentum after Jerry Kill managed seven wins, including a bowl game victory, in his first season at the helm. Before that, NMSU had won just eight games total dating back to 2018.

North Texas Mean Green

Previous conference: Conference USA | New conference: American

New coach Eric Morris leads UNT into a new conference. All-time, the AAC will be the ninth league UNT has called home since it began sponsoring football in 1913. Though the Mean Green have primarily competed at the highest division of NCAA football (FBS or equivalent) they were in FCS as members of the Southland Conference from 1982-94 before returning to the FBS as an independent in 1995. Stints in the Big West (1996-2000) and Sun Belt (2001-12) followed before UNT joined Conference USA in 2013. 

Rice Owls 

Previous conference: Conference USA | New conference: American

The Owls look to make the most of a blank slate in the AAC as they aim for bowl eligibility for the first time since 2013. It's the third league Rice has been a part of since the breakup of the Southwest Conference, which it called home from 1918-95. The Owls were in the WAC from 1996-2004 before kicking off an 18-season run in Conference USA in 2005.

Sam Houston Bearkats  

Previous conference: WAC | New conference: Conference USA

Another program making its FBS debut, Conference USA is the third stop for Sam Houston. The Bearkats were independent from the program's 1912 inception until 1986, when they joined the Southland Conference. The Bearkats didn't join the NCAA until 1982, initially competing at the Division II level before entering the FCS in '86. Sam Houston spent 35 seasons in the Southland Conference, winning the FCS national championship during their final season of membership during the 2020-21 school year. They most recently completed a two-year run in the WAC.

UAB Blazers 

Previous conference: Conference USA | New conference: American 

Before Saturday, Conference USA was the only home UAB football had known since its inception in 1991. The program was independent through moves from NCAA Division III to the FCS in 1993 and to the FBS in 1996 before joining Conference USA in 1999. The Blazers have finished above .500 in six straight seasons since the program returned after a two-year shutdown from 2015-16. However, the move to the AAC presents unknowns; former Super Bowl champion quarterback Trent Dilfer takes over as a first-time college coach. 

UCF Knights 

Previous conference: American | New conference: Big 12

Considering UCF football launched in 1979 and didn't enter the FBS until 1996, it's a respectable feat for the Knights to reach a Power Five conference in such a short time. The journey included stops in the Mid-American Conference (2002-04), Conference USA (2005-12) and AAC (2013-22). UCF has been vocal with its desire for national respect in recent years, epitomized by the Knights claiming a national title in 2017 despite missing the College Football Playoff. That season marked the start of a three-year stretch in which the Knights won 35 games and posted three consecutive AP Top 25 finishes. 

UTSA Roadrunners 

Previous conference: Conference USA | New conference: American 

It's a well-deserved promotion for UTSA, a program led by a rising star in coach Jeff Traylor. The Roadrunners capped off their 10-season stay in Conference USA in style last December, winning the league championship for a second straight year. Not too shabby for a program that didn't exist until 2011. UTSA spent two years in the FCS -- one as an independent (2011) and one in the WAC (2012) -- before the jump to FBS in 2013. All said, the Roadrunners look poised to fill the power vacuum in the AAC, which loses three of its most successful programs.