College Football Conference Expansion

Since 2011, the College Football landscape has begun to change rather dramatically. A couple of dominoes here and there and suddenly one conference may be non-existent soon while other conferences will continue to dominate.

We take a look at the changes and shuffling that have occurred over the past year and some of the expected changes that will occur over the next few years as well.

2011 Changes:

Big Ten added Nebraska from Big 12

Adding Nebraska gave the Big Ten 12 teams (makes sense?) which meant they could hold a conference championship. The B1G (as it is referred to from their new logo) would divide the conference into two divisions – Legends and Leaders.

In 2011 Nebraska lost in the Capital One bowl to South Carolina. Give them a year or two to recruit the right players and Nebraska should become a yearly threat in the Big Ten.

Pac 10 became PAC-12

PAC-12 added Utah from Mountain West and Colorado from Big 12

The PAC-12 commissioner Larry Scott had grand aspirations for expansion. Ultimately the conference settled for Utah and Colorado, two nice additions. But they pursued Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech as well. That would give the conference 16 teams. However, due to Texas creating their own channel, the Longhorn Network, the deal fell apart, those four teams remained in Big 12 and the Pac 10 became 12. Like the B1G, the Pac-12 now gets to have a conference championship game.

Utah and Colorado both had rough first seasons, although Utah actually finished the year one win shy of a PAC-12 title game appearance (that says more about the PAC-12 south than Utah).

Colorado got their first PAC-12 win over Arizona, who had fired Mike Stoops.

Big 12 lost Nebraska and Colorado

Losing Nebraska hurts for rivalries and tradition. Texas and Oklahoma were both big rivals of Nebraska. Colorado won one Big 12 championship in 2001 and other than that were never much of a threat. The conference already has replacements lined up. Contrary to the Pac 12 and Big Ten, the Big 12 lost their conference title game and did away with divisions for 2011.

Without Nebraska and Colorado the Big 12 played a round robin schedule. There was no championship game for the first time since the conference existed. There was, however, a de-factor title game featuring Oklahoma and Oklahoma State the final week of the season. The winner of this game won the Big 12 and went to the Fiesta bowl

Mountain West added Boise State, lost Utah and BYU

The Mountain West is not a “BCS conference” but has always been highly respected. Utah has been to, and won, two BCS bowl games so losing them hurts the conferences credibility a little as does BYU. BYU decided to declare their independence from conferences while Utah bolted to Pac-12. They added Boise State from the WAC. A big gain as the Broncos, like Utah, have also won two BCS games so they added some instant credibility right back. Their stay won’t last long though as Boise State is expected to bolt for the Big East. TCU was due to go to Big East but will instead go to the Big 12 in 2012. The conference could have included Boise State, TCU, BYU, and Utah – and been a very legitimate conference. By 2013, none will remain.
Boise State went 11-1. Their one loss came in conference to TCU, due to a failed field goal attempt. The Broncos would go on to win the Las Vegas bowl against ASU

WAC lost Boise State

As documented above, this is a big loss for the conference. They still had Hawaii, Fresno State and Nevada in 2011, but losing Boise State is a big deal. Especially because they provided BCS revenue to the conference and its team.

2012 Changes:

Big 12 adds TCU and West Virginia, lose Texas A&M and Missouri

Texas A&M bolted the Big 12 for the SEC the first chance they got. The SEC needed an even number of teams so they took Missouri as well, despite the fact that Missouri is not relatively located to any of the teams. Texas A&M has a long-standing rivalry with Arkansas. TCU is a perfect addition for the Big 12. TCU can instantly create natural rivalries with fellow Texas teams – Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor. TCU has proven in recent years they can play with the big boys. They knocked off Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl in 2010. As for West Virginia, they don’t exactly fit the geographic bill but they provide a rabid fanbase and a good bit of tradition. West Virginia will embrace their southern roots and ultimately be a better fit in this conference than playing Big East teams. Head coach Dana Holgorson was Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator a few years ago so he has experience in the conference and should be able to guide the Mountaineers to success.

Big East loses West Virginia, adds Temple

West Virginia was consistently one of the top teams in the Big East over the past few years. Their success and reputation is a crushing blow to a conference that already gets very little respect. The top teams in the Big East entering 2012 are Cincinnati and Louisville, two teams who joined the Big East 6 years ago. West Virginia’s departure was not simple. They demanded an immediate exit to join the Big 12. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving the conference after 2014, they are following the 20-month exit rule the Big East has. West Virginia basically sued to avoid that rule and are now gone.

So moving on, the Big East needed an immediate replacement so they can remain at eight teams. Temple, who used to be part of the Big East until they got kicked out, has rejoined the conference. The Owls football program is very respectable now, unlike the past where it was more of a joke.

Mountain West: Add Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada. Lose TCU

The conference, as we discussed earlier, could have had several BCS contenders. Losing Utah, BYU, and TCU hurt and they are expecting to lose Boise State in 2013. But the Mountain West aggressively raded the WAC. Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada, all friends of Boise State’s from the past, have now joined the Broncos in the Mountain West. All three add a little more credibility and compeitiveness and leave the WAC fairly dry.

MAC: Add Umass (previously FCS). Lose Temple

Temple has been rather competitive the last few years but losing them is not a major loss. Adding Umass is an interesting move. It opens the MAC up to the New England area market and adds a brand new team. The Minutemen likely won’t be very competitive for a few years.

Sun Belt: Add South Alabama (previously Independent)

WAC: Add Texas State and UT-San Antonio. Lose Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada.

The WAC lost Boise State in 2012 and now losing Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada might kill the conference.

2013 Changes:

ACC adds Syracuse and Pittsburgh

There is a strong possibility this move happens in 2013. The Big East wanted to hold them to a 20-month exit clause but after letting West Virginia leave early, the conference may waive the clause. This is probably the one move that has more to do with basketball than football. Syracuse’s football program has been down for a few years now as has Pittsburgh, who are on their third full-time coach in three years.

Big East adds Boise State, San Diego State, Houston, SMU, UCF, and Memphis. Add Navy in 2015

The Big “East” will add a team from California, Idaho, and two from Texas. The Big “East” will have two divisions – East and West. There will be a conference called Big East West. Got it? No? We don’t really get it either. It’s all about money though and there is money to be had with television revenue in the Big East, more than Conference USA or Mountain West.

Boise State will provide the Big East with a constantly ranked team and BCS contender

San Diego State will simply provide headaches for teams like Rutgers, South Florida, Uconn who have a long ways to travel to play the Aztecs.

Houston needs to continue the momentum gained from QB Case Keenum. The Cougars lost the C-USA title game in 2011, had they won they likely would have played in a BCS game. Head coach Kevin Sumlin is gone and so is Keenum but the Cougars should be well-equipped to compete in the new Big East when they get there.

SMU is a storied program with a lot of history. After being down for a while, head coach June Jones has led the Mustangs to two straight bowl games.

UCF will instantly rival USF as they become the second Florida school in the Big East.

Memphis does not have much history as a football program and bring a lot to the table for basketball. The Tigers do re-unite with former C-USA foes Louisville and Cincinnati and can create rivalries with them.

Navy runs the triple option offense

Sun Belt adds Georgia State and Texas State

C-USA adds Charlotte (2015 fball), FIU, Louisiana Tech, UT-SA, North Texas