Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

July 1, 2013

Column: It's conference-affiliation quiz time

— Quick, name the 10 member schools in the American Athletic Conference, which was the Big East Conference prior to this season.

Can’t do it? Don’t feel bad, neither could one of its member schools.

When the University of Connecticut put together a page on its website on Monday to welcome the newest members to what is now the American Athletic Conference, there was one problem.

According to Jack Arute on College Sports Today — SiriusXM 91 — the Huskies forgot a school. At least it wasn’t the Huskies.

They have since added Central Florida, which left Conference USA for the AAC, not to be confused with the NAIA league of the same initials, the Appalachian Athletic Conference, which was once home to Bluefield College, and is still in existence.

Few leagues haven’t been affected by realignment in recent years, with the upcoming changes for 2013-14 becoming effective on Monday.

Let’s just say the only constant is change, and it’s not just the Division 1 or so-called major college schools.

After 89 years of competition, the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) ceased to exist, having been around since 1924.

While it might not seem like football is the revenue generator in Division II as it is at the higher levels, apparently it is.

The Mountain East is now in business, having been founded with the assistance of eight football-playing schools in the WVIAC. They later added Wheeling Jesuit, which doesn’t play on the gridiron, which is apparently why Bluefield State has continued to maintain hope of being part of the league. Note to Bluefield State: you don’t play football.

Three other schools made it 12, including the University of Virginia’s College at Wise — which is making the move from NAIA and the Mid-South Conference to Division II — along with Urbana and Notre Dame (not that Notre Dame) of Ohio.

Four WVIAC schools moved to the Great Midwest Conference, including Ohio Valley, Salem International, Davis & Elkins and Alderson-Broaddus. Pitt-Johnstown and Seton Hill bolted for the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference.

Only Bluefield State is without a place to call home. Call them an Independent in 2013-14 after hopes of joining the Mountain East didn’t happen.

As for the Division I schools, last year all the rage in this area was West Virginia’s first season in the Big 12. They were joined by Texas Christian, while Texas A&M and Missouri bolted the Big 12 for the SEC.

Many more moves are now effective for the upcoming season, from the ACC and AAC to Conference USA, Mountain West the Sun Belt, the Colonial Athletic Conference, Southern Conference and the list keeps on going.

Oh yeah, the Mid-American Conference had one addition last year too, having invited Massachusetts to make a 13-team league.

It’s been said in the past that you need a program to tell who the players are. This year you will need a program to tell what leagues the schools are playing in.

Much like the ACC did it to the ‘old’ Big East with the additions of Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College in 2004, it has happened again, with the ACC dipping into the decimated Big East to add Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Louisville.

Notre Dame will participate in all sports, although the Fighting Irish will play just five ACC games a season on the gridiron beginning in 2014. Louisville will also join the ACC next fall.  

That will give the ACC 16 teams, with Maryland making the head-scratching move to the Big 10, joining Rutgers, which will give the Big 10 14 teams. Those schools are expected to add television viewers in major markets for their new league, but neither school is exactly a national draw.

Here is the answer to the question at top of this column.

The AAC currently has 10 schools, including six holdovers, led by Louisville and Rutgers — who are leaving for the ACC — along with Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida and Temple.

The Big East-turned-AAC promptly raided Conference USA to pick up Houston, Southern Methodist, Memphis and, yes, Central Florida.

Boise State and San Diego State — TCU had a change of heart and joined the Big 12 instead of the Big East — had been slated to join the Big East, but decided to return to the Mountain West, which also had its own share of changes.

It’s not over. The AAC will add additional C-USA members Tulsa, Tulane and East Carolina in 2014, followed by Navy in 2015. That will give them 12 schools, unless they decide to add or subtract more.

Conference USA had to make its own changes with so many schools bolting for the AAC.

Marshall will be joined by several newcomers, with C-USA raiding the Sun Belt for Middle Tennessee State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International and North Texas, while Louisiana Tech and Texas San-Antonio left the WAC for the move east.

Waiting to join in the future are Western Kentucky, Charlotte and Old Dominion.

The Western Athletic Conference — better known as the WAC — is now only a memory, with its members being taken into the MWC. That includes Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah State and San Jose State.

Two other WAC schools, New Mexico State and Idaho, were misplaced in the Sun Belt from 2001-04, and will return there next season, spending this year as an Independent.

The Sun Belt will also add Georgia State in 2014, along with FCS powers Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, who will make the move from the Southern Conference Division I, which is still a head-scratcher to me.

There is more. East Tennessee State, which was a part of the SoCon through 2005, will leave the Atlantic Sun and return in 2014, having decided to bring football back.

I thought I was actually at VMI’s final basketball game in the SoCon, but I was wrong. The Keydets are back, and will be joined by Mercer from the Atlantic Sun. College of Charleston and Elon left the SoCon for the Colonial Athletic Association, and Davidson bolted for the Atlantic 10.

And, it just keeps on going.

There was even change in the NAIA ranks. Georgetown College, which has dominated the Mid-South Conference in several sports, has left the MSC for the Great Midwest, apparently with the intentions of leaving the NAIA for Division II.

Confused? Me too.

It used to be so simple, but apparently football and the almighty dollar has become more important than traditions and normalcy in college athletics.

If given a quiz, could you tell who is playing in what league?

Let’s just say it might be a good idea to invest in a college football magazine before the upcoming season begins.

I am sure glad I did.

*****

Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at bwoodson@bdtonline.com.

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