With 2021 in the books, we’ve decided to look back at how this blog evolved and performed in 2021 (and the last quarter of 2020). As we do in most of our realignment posts, let’s go back to the past for some context. If you go back far enough on this website, you’ll find all sorts of different topics ranging from college football news to predictions to softball and even some horse racing articles. After numerous years of varied interests, we changed things up in October 2020 with a focus centered largely on college sports realignment.

On October 1, 2020, we posted about West Texas A&M‘s potential move from Division 2 to Division 1 to mark this change in content direction. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was the start of an impressive growth streak that has lasted until the posting of this article and hopefully continues into the future. From January 2020 through September 2020, this website had a total of 2,000 views and no month in that period had more than 310 views.

By comparison, October 2020 and November 2020 had 2,300 views combined and no month since October 2020 has seen views dip below 750. Queue up the “With THIS one simple trick” clickbait article to get even more views. In all seriousness, it’s impressive but the content change alone wasn’t enough to see views increase. We aren’t pretending that we’re a go-to source for realignment news or making waves in the blogosphere hierarchy but the viewership increase was completely unexpected at the time of the content change.

The Luck Factor

The biggest factor in the growth of this website in late 2020 and 2021 was good luck. In October 2020, we had no idea how crazy realignment was about to be. There was no inkling that Oklahoma and Texas would leave the Big 12 and head to the SEC. The reverberations from those two moving to the SEC will be felt for years and decades. Hell, the current realignment shift still hasn’t stopped.

We got extremely lucky that our content change towards hypothetical realignment changes coincided with a huge surge in realignment changes actually happening. Sure, there might have been some foresight in those ideas dating back to a 2018 article on which FCS teams might move up but realignment is a fickle thing. It could have been only a few minor moves at the FCS or lower Division 1 ranks but 2020 and 2021 just happened to be a time of seismic change.

For this website, 2020 and 2021 were largely a product of good luck. We can only hope the good luck continues in 2022. We also have produced longer, more in-depth articles, which we believe have increased the quality of the posts and contributed to increased views. There are numerous reasons for the increased views but the luck portion cannot be understated.

2021 Stats and Most Viewed Articles

In 2021, Sports Enthusiasts published 20 articles and recorded 26,625 views. The views recorded in 2021 were more than 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 combined (24,000 total across those 4 years). That speaks to how fortunate we were to focus on realignment AND get lucky with internet search results.

The most popular article in 2021 was on North Dakota State from January 2021 followed by an article from 2018, which also featured NDSU. The difference between the two articles is the 2021 article was more detailed and thorough than the quick hits featured in the 2018 post.

The third most viewed article in 2021 was our personal favorite – Chicago State and its future after the WAC. We feel this article was one of the most thorough and all-encompassing we’ve ever posted on this site. We addressed some of the critiques of previous articles and made it more visually appealing than just a mass wall of text and numbers. It also generated the most comments of any realignment article we’ve posted, which helps us understand where we can improve. (We didn’t list the OVC as a potential destination but we also didn’t foresee the OVC being under so much pressure to maintain membership back when we posted the article in April 2021).

The other fourth and fifth most viewed articles were the realignment changes from 2019 and the 2021 NCAA Division 1 softball tournament schedule. Below is a table showing the 10 most viewed articles on our website in 2021.

Article2021 ViewsYear (Month) Published
Reexamining the North Dakota State to FBS Argument3,7742021 (January)
Transitioning From FCS To FBS Part 2: Potential Teams3,4952018 (August)
What Will the Future Hold for Chicago State After the WAC?3,0552021 (April)
A Review of the Recent College Sports Realignment News2,8622021 (February)
2021 NCAA Division 1 Softball Regional, Super Regional, and WCWS Schedules1,9522021 (May)
Is West Texas A&M the Next Team to Jump to Division I?1,4072020 (October)
College Sports Realignment for 2022 (and Beyond)1,3752021 (September)
The MEAC is Searching Division 2 for Future Members9632021 (May)
Transitioning From FCS To FBS Part 1: Past History6332018 (August)
How Can the ASUN and WAC Become FBS Conferences?6042021 (October)

Critiques and Changes

One of the most frequent critiques about our posts has been too many numbers, especially for the WAC / Southland, Central Arkansas, and NDSU articles. There was a focus on travel distance when comparing the current conference to potential destinations. Quite a few forums weren’t big fans of the “number wall” so we decided to use Google Maps instead. A good example of this is the aforementioned Chicago State article which swapped out the travel distances for a visual representation using Google maps.

Another change we have focused on is making interactive charts. For example, we don’t just want to list how much a school has in revenue and expenses, we want to be able to put that into context. Our next realignment article in January 2022 will do just that as we seek to make things more visually appealing for our readers.

Speaking of appealing, one critique we haven’t seen mentioned on the far reach of the internet is article length. In 2021, the average number of words per post was 2,160, which is practically a novel by social media standards. This lack of critique is a bit surprising given the decreasing attention span in a digital age but it’s also something that’s intuitive to realignment. Most realignment debates are nuanced, requiring a look at multiple issues or factors that impact whether a program should leave for a new conference. 2 or 3 different issues can bloat the article’s length but are central to any realignment argument. On the other hand, including more graphics is something we want to include for those that simply scroll posts for the highlights.

One personal critique we have is the promotion of this website – or, more accurately, the lack of promotion. Our articles are shared only 1 time on Twitter and that’s it. We don’t beam this out to Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, or anywhere else. If you’ve seen a post from this website elsewhere, it’s because someone else thought it was worth sharing. That in itself is pretty cool and rewarding while also making the view count more impressive because there’s virtually no marketing for these articles. This also highlights an area for growth for the website although we would feel shameless doing so.

We have some small changes planned for what will be a yearly article on realignment changes. Our previous articles on changes before 2021 and changes in 2022 or later are pretty good references for a master list. However, we would like to make them even better by including dates we recorded the change and other helpful additions for the readers. We are always open to other ideas that our readers may want to see.

2022 Expectations and Plans

After a great 2021, we are hesitant to put any expectations on paper for 2022. We didn’t expect to see such a high surge so quickly and that caught us off guard. For 2022, let’s just say more of the same. It’s a cop-out answer but a reasonable one because the realignment game appears to have settled at the FBS level. It’s tough to tell how realignment will go from month to month so we’ll temper our expectations and hope we can maintain the viewership we’ve seen to end 2021.

As we have done since October 2020, we plan to have an article posted on or around the 15th of each month in 2022. We currently have an article queued up for January and ideas for February and March. In May, we will take our yearly respite from realignment with the 2022 D1 softball tournament schedule. For August, we will have an FCS-focused article. In total, we have 5 of the 12 months already penciled in. Beyond that? Not much is planned yet.

One of the good things about realignment is there is always something to write about. Sometimes, it can be too many topics and in a sea of constant change, one simple change can derail the article you’re writing. Nevertheless, we will continue to produce in-depth realignment articles even if it’s on an obscure topic.

We operate in the realignment universe somewhere between Matt Brown’s solid sources and the far-flung reaches of those that would form purely geographic-centric conferences that disregard institutional priorities and resource differences. That gives us some leeway and to be more theoretical but not to the extreme. We are always open to ideas and feedback from our readers because we don’t have all the answers, nor can we see every angle of a realignment argument. If there’s a topic, team, idea, change in our articles, or any feedback please let us know.

We hope the articles you’ve read here have been informative and worth coming back for each month. We appreciate the time our readers have spent here whether it’s been commenting, sharing, or even reading for a few minutes. Thank you for spending some of your valuable time in 2021 reading our posts. We hope you’ll do the same in 2022.

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