This is the third article in an ongoing series covering various college realignment news for all three NCAA Divisions as well as NAIA news. The first article from October 2022 can be found here while the second one from January 2023 is here. The roundup below will cover news and reports since mid-January 2023 and provide additional updates/reports on previously discussed topics. As a reminder, all official moves starting with the 2023-24 academic year and beyond can be found on our realignment list.
We’ll break out the reports for each Division in the following order: Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, and NAIA. Clicking the links will bring you to that specific section.
SMU and San Diego State to Pac-12?
We start with the potentially significant report that the Pac-12 leadership has visited SMU and also fancies San Diego State as the next two members of the Pac-12. Of course, the Pac-12 has been vetting potential members since last summer when UCLA and USC bolted to the Big Ten. In turn, whichever teams the Pac-12 eventually decides to invite will lead to further realignment changes among the Group of 5 conferences all the way down to the backfilling from the FCS (and potentially from D2 for FCS conferences). Speaking of potential Pac-12 members, let’s take a look at one school that would like to get an invite to the Power 5…
UNLV Wants Power 5 Future
UNLV has let it be known that they should be considered in the future for a Power 5 conference in the next realignment shuffle. With the uncertainty over the Pac-12 due to UCLA and USC leaving for the Big Ten in 2024, there may be a need to expand sooner rather than later. In addition, the Pac-12’s fumbling of the recent TV deal that has yet to be negotiated might push the conference toward expansion. However, the Big 12 may also see the Las Vegas metro as an attractive potential area for realignment.
It’s pretty obvious why UNLV would want to be considered for the Pac-12 but it’s unknown if the interest is mutual. UNLV football isn’t a highly sought-after brand as they’ve only made 2 bowl games since the turn of the century. Basketball has fared better with 7 NCAA Tournament appearances since 2000 and 1 Sweet Sixteen in 2007. There’s certainly a lot more to realignment than just two sports but the lack of athletic success can’t be ignored for a potential Power 5 move.
Oklahoma and Texas Joining SEC in 2024
February began with Pete Thamel of ESPN reporting that Oklahoma, Texas, and the Big 12 could not come to an agreement that would allow the two schools to join the SEC a year early in 2024. The duo announced the realignment-shattering news in the summer of 2021 and there were hopes both schools could move to the SEC sooner than the original target of 2025. It took less than a week for that to change as the Big 12 announced Oklahoma and Texas will become SEC members in 2024 after all parties reached an agreement. The two schools will forego $100 million in revenue with Fox receiving $20 million and the 8 legacy schools receiving $10 million each. In addition, the Michigan–Texas home-and-home series schedule flipped as part of the deal with Michigan now hosting in 2024 and Texas hosting in 2027. Finally, it looks like the Big 12 will be aggressive with its own expansion efforts, which, if true, means the realignment ripple effects will be plentiful in the short term.
Kevin Warren Leaves Big Ten Commissioner Post for Chicago Bears
While not your typical realignment news, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren leaving that job to become President and CEO of the NFL’s Chicago Bears is interesting. Warren’s time as Commissioner saw him expand the conference membership to the West Coast with UCLA and USC set to join the Big Ten in 2024. The Big Ten also signed a new media deal worth $7 billion over 7 years with games to be shown on CBS, Fox, and NBC. Now that Warren has departed, what happens next for the Big Ten? Do they sit idle for a few years? Wait for the SEC to expand again? Go for additional Pac-12 teams? Look elsewhere? A new commissioner may have a different set of objectives compared to Warren so it will be interesting to see the path the new Big Ten Commissioner takes.
Washington and Washington State Fates Tied Together?
Politicians in the state of Washington are seeking to keep the University of Washington and Washington State University in the same conference. The bill is clearly aimed at preventing the separation of the two schools should the Big Ten attempt to expand further into the Pac-12’s realm. Although not codified into state law, this idea is similar to what was put in place for the University of Kansas and Kansas State University (and other schools in Kansas). The Kansas schools will need to get approval from the Board of Regents in order to move to a new conference. It’s worth noting that Kansas and Kansas State could end up in different conferences and aren’t forced to be in the same conference but it’s easy to see the intent of the policy to keep the schools together.
Division 2 Conference Shuffling – Gulf South and Conference Carolinas
January 26, 2023 was a busy day for Division 2 athletics as two conferences announced a bevy of changes. The Conference Carolinas announced they would bring back football starting in the 2025 season as well as welcoming Shorter University as a member of the conference in 2024. Due to this, several current and future affiliate members of the Gulf South Conference will move the football program into the CC.
Chowan and North Greenville will play the 2023 and 2024 seasons as members of the GSC, Shorter will play as a GSC member in 2023 before becoming an independent in football for the 2024 season, and Erskine will be a football affiliate in the GSC for the 2024 season only. Chowan, Erskine, North Greenville, and Shorter will join Barton and UNC Pembroke in 2025 in the newly sponsored Carolinas football conference.
Lincoln University (Missouri) Leaving the MIAA
We said 1/26/23 was a busy day because Lincoln University (Jefferson City, Missouri) also announced a change in conferences. The Blue Tigers will leave the MIAA and join the GLVC beginning with the 2024-25 academic year. Lincoln also announced it would be adding baseball and men’s and women’s soccer to its sports offerings. Baseball and tennis were eliminated after the 2016 season due to financial reasons. Lincoln was previously in the MIAA from 1970 through 1999 when it left to join the Heartland Conference and returned to the MIAA in 2010.
Simon Fraser and Lone Star Conference Agreement Ends After 2023
The NCAA’s lone Canadian school will need to find a new home for football. Simon Fraser University announced on February 1 that the Lone Star Conference did not renew the affiliate membership agreement in place for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. SFU is a member of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, however, the GNAC stopped sponsoring football following the 2021 season. That decision – along with Azusa Pacific dropping football after the 2020 season – led to the GNAC trio of Central Washington, Simon Fraser, and Western Oregon becoming football affiliates of the Lone Star Conference.
Roosevelt Submits Division 2 Application
Roosevelt University (Chicago, Illinois) has submitted its application to become a Division 2 member according to Collegiate Consulting, which assisted the school with the application. Roosevelt is currently a member of the NAIA’s Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference and was approved as a provisional member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) in August 2022. The school would begin the process of moving to Division 2 in 2023-24 if they are accepted as a provisional D2 member and would be eligible for GLIAC championships the following year. Roosevelt would ultimately be a fully eligible D2 institution starting with the 2026-27 academic year.
Last Full Member Announces Departure from Division 3 NECC
January 2023 brought news that the last full member of the New England Collegiate Conference has found a new home. Eastern Nazarene (Quincy, Massachusetts) will leave the NECC and join the North Atlantic Conference starting with the 2023-24 academic year. The last four full members all announced their departures in the last 12 months with Lesley University also leaving for the NAC while the duo of Mitchell College (New London, Connecticut) and New England College (Henniker, New Hampshire) will leave for the Great Northeast Athletic Conference. While the NECC may not have any full members starting in 2023-24, it appears that it will continue to operate as a volleyball-only conference. In addition, the NECC boasts a healthy 27 associate members in Esports.
Two Vermont State Programs Facing Big Athletic Changes
Vermont State will officially exist on July 1, 2023 but that has not stopped them from making some unpopular changes already. VSU will consist of 5 campuses – Castleton, Johnson, Lyndon, Randolph, and Williston – with four of those having athletic programs (Williston will not). VSU-Johnson will move from the Division 3 North Atlantic Conference to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association. Meanwhile, current USCAA member VSU-Randolph will move to a club sports model and no longer have a conference. Both athletic changes are effective with the 2024-25 academic year but there may be additional news depending on how Vermont State values athletics for the other campuses or if there’s significant backlash.
Birmingham-Southern In Dire Straits
The future of Birmingham-Southern College looks bleak based on recent reports. The school met with students on Monday, February 6 to discuss options on how best to move forward. This is the second time in a few months span that BSC has been reportedly close to shutting its doors. The school has requested $30 million in funding from the state of Alabama to keep the school operating. BSC has provided a FAQ section on its website and said a determination on the school’s future will be made around March 7, 2023. BSC is a member of the Division 3 Southern Athletic Association, which they are a charter member of since the conference began competition in the 2012-13 academic year. We will follow up on this in the March Realignment Report.
Baptist Bible College Planning to join NAIA
Baptist Bible College (Springfield, Missouri) is planning to apply for membership to the NAIA in the summer of 2023 with the hopes of starting its NAIA tenure in 2024. The Patriots are currently a National Christian College Athletic Association member as an independent in the Central Region of NCCAA’s Division 1 level. If accepted, Baptist Bible College will try to join the NAIA’s American Midwest Conference.
Tougaloo (NAIA) Adding 4 Sports
Tougaloo College (Tougaloo, Mississippi) posted on its main university website that it was adding four athletic programs. Those four programs are an eSports team, tennis, soccer, and women’s flag football. Unfortunately, there have been no official announcements on the athletic website or social media accounts to provide additional information for the NAIA program, which plays in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference.
John Melvin University Eyes NAIA
John Melvin University (Crowley, Louisiana) announced its first football coach with Don Lee at the helm, which led to some additional investigation. The school is currently a member of the Gulf-Atlantic Christian Athletic Conference (GACAC), which has a total of 4 current members and 2 unknown future members. The school’s website states they are looking to join the NAIA following the first year although a definitive timeline was not provided and they must become accredited in order to join the NAIA. One possible destination could be the Red River Athletic Conference, which currently has 4 Louisiana schools among its membership. (Message board rumors aren’t typically considered “sources” but given the lack of information, an exception is being made along with this Reddit thread on the topic).
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