Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

July 1, 2014

Has conference realignment at last reached a lull?

BLUEFIELD — The latest wave of major conference realignment lands ashore this week, bringing with it geographical contradictions, upended traditions and financial gains.

Welcome to the Atlantic coast, Louisville.

Time to get to know the Great Lakes, Maryland and Rutgers.

Meet your new neighbors, schools of the American Athletic Conference. The footprint of the former Big East now covers nine states, from Connecticut to Texas.

The change in league memberships has dominated college sports the last decade as much as the chase for national championships, with power conferences competing for multimedia revenue and recruiting exposure and the dominoes that fall in line behind them.

As of Tuesday, 12 more football teams in the NCAA’s bowl subdivision will have new affiliations. The American replaces Louisville (Atlantic Coast) and Rutgers (Big Ten) with Conference USA-departing East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa. Maryland, a 1953 ACC original, bolts for the Big Ten.

Of the 128 schools to play at the FBS level this season, more than 40 percent have made at least one move over the past decade. That figure doesn’t even include the shake-ups of the mid-to-late 1990s that produced the Big 12, Conference USA and the Mountain West. Flip the calendar back 25 years and find only 48 teams that have stayed put. That means more than 62 percent of them switched during that span.

There aren’t other major moves on the immediate horizon, though.

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