In the spirit of April Fools, let’s take go back to October 2020 when we began a renewed focus on college realignment. Within many of the articles since that time, we have typically included our thoughts, opinions, and predictions. 2.5 years later, we wanted to look back at all those articles and see just how right and wrong we have been.
For this humorous review, we will look at some of our articles in order and point out any inaccuracies, questionable assumptions, terrible predictions, and include when we were correct. We won’t be bothering with small details like grammatical errors or misspellings otherwise this article would be far too long. Without further ado, back to October 2020 we go…
Sigh. Our very first realignment article was a fumble as we are still waiting on West Texas A&M to move back to Division 1 and there’s been no sign this will happen soon. Fellow Lone Star Conference member Texas A&M-Commerce has made the jump as they are in year one of the four-year transition process as a member of the Southland Conference.
On the flip side, we did mention the return of WAC football and that has indeed happened. We noted Commerce as a potential WAC target though that part did not come to fruition. We also mentioned that Big Sky members may be targeted by the WAC, which was the case with Southern Utah joining the WAC in 2022. Overall, this was an article that was both right and wrong. Feels like that might be a theme going forward.
Based on what we have seen transpire with the WAC’s football revival, this was right on the money. Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston State, and Stephen F. Austin all left the Southland for the WAC. In 2023, only Abilene Christian and Stephen F. Austin will still be in the WAC. Lamar was so eager to return to the Southland, they left the WAC a year earlier than planned. In addition, the WAC’s tenuous nature made Incarnate Word walk back its decision to leave the Southland.
Sam Houston State is leaving the WAC after 2 seasons to pursue FBS football in Conference USA. For the 2023 season, the WAC will have Abilene Christian, Southern Utah, Stephen F. Austin, Tarleton State, and Utah Tech with only the former 3 schools fully Division 1 eligible. While the WAC and ASUN have FBS desires, the move has apparently been put on hold for now due to the instability of the current membership. We’ll count this as a rare W.
We’ll address the elephant in the room: NDSU has not moved to the FBS yet and the arguments for and against have not stopped raging. We actually want to address some of the finer points discussed in the article.
One of the final paragraphs stated the following:
“Further to this point, how many schools went from being a Group of 5 program and jumped up into a Power 5 Conference? TCU in the Big 12 and Utah in the Pac-12 are the only programs to do so if we are not counting former Big East programs. Even TCU has historical ties back to the old Southwest Conference so their current standing in the Big 12 isn’t nearly as unlikely as an FCS program vaulting to the P5 within two or three decades. Bridging the gap from the FCS to the FBS is difficult but the gulf between Group of 5 and Power 5 is nearly impossible as the gap is widening under the current playoff format.”
There has never been an “easier” time to move from the Group of 5 to a Power 5 thanks to Oklahoma and Texas moving to the SEC. Three AAC teams – Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF – plus BYU are set to break the G5 to P5 barrier in 2023 as they move to the Big 12. The Pac-12 may backfill with additional AAC or Mountain West teams, which wouldn’t make that comment look prescient.
Overall, this article was a mixed bag because it seems like NDSU is more likely than ever to jump to the FBS with all the movement, which goes against our final prediction. In addition, the long-term play to move up to FBS for a chance at a P5 conference doesn’t seem so far-fetched now. However, they would need to find the right conference and despite the FBS being more accessible than ever, NDSU has declined all overtures so far. Maybe NDSU really is content in the FCS?
Of all the articles written here, this was probably the best one and it still holds up nearly 2 years later. We really wanted to drive home just how difficult things are for Chicago State and what’s unfolded since has confirmed those beliefs. We mentioned the MEAC as a potential short-term arrangement but even the MEAC – a conference with its own membership struggles – wasn’t willing to accept Chicago State.
One prospect we mentioned was scheduling marquee names in college basketball and Chicago State has done just that though not nearly as many as we suggested. In 2022-23, Chicago State played 31 games with 23 of those on the road including the penultimate contest at Gonzaga on March 1. Perhaps 2023-24 will feature more big names though at some point we recognize Power 5 schools may not want to play the Cougars with such a low SOS/RPI that may be a factor if they’re on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament.
One aspect we did miss was not including the Ohio Valley Conference as a potential destination. Geographically they make a lot of sense and could be seen as a potential member if no one else is willing to join the OVC. However, we concluded that if the MEAC didn’t want Chicago State, it was unlikely that the OVC would either.
Guess what? They are still searching for any future members although that may change if they are desperate (looking at you Chicago State if you add football).
6/28/2021 – Will the FBS Versus FCS Matchup Become Obsolete?
It’s still too early to tell whether the FBS-FCS matchup will stick around although how the 12-team playoff impacts this is worth following. As of now, it doesn’t look like FBS teams have stopped scheduling them far into the future.
In this article, we went through various options including Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, and Notre Dame. We also mentioned that Big Ten might go after some Pac-12 schools, which ended up being UCLA and USC in the summer of 2022. Well, at least that’s all they’ve taken from the Pac-12 for now.
We weren’t sold that this would happen because the tradition of the Rose Bowl seemed too high a price along with the enormous travel commitments. Well, that was wrong because money continues to be the sole basis of CFB realignment. Sigh. This move also made us realize that no speculation is bad if the money makes sense. Geography is of little concern if you can make enough revenue. Ditto for any grant of rights that are often alluded to as a barrier.
10/7/2021 – How Can the ASUN and WAC Become FBS Conferences?
Based on recent developments, the answer is now “a lot needs to happen”. Both conferences are losing members to the point that neither has enough fully D1 eligible members to maintain an automatic qualifying bid to the FCS Playoffs. That’s not great! Having said that, this scenario isn’t completely impossible especially if the NCAA has a drastic change in its structure. Whether that leaves the door open for entire conferences to move between subdivisions remains to be seen.
We probably won’t truly know the extent of the winners and losers from 2021’s realignment but we do like most of our answers. One loser we’d add to the list: the Pac-12. Losing UCLA and USC and having no replacements (at the time of posting this article) means they are weaker. There remains the possibility that the Big 12 takes some teams from the conference, which really says a lot about the state of the Pac-12.
An article ahead of its time given how the Sun Belt was hyped the first month of the 2022 season.
1/15/2022 – Kennesaw State’s Future FBS Prospects
We were correct in predicting that Kennesaw State would join the FBS at some point. We just didn’t think it would happen in 2022. While the Owls did join C-USA as one of the two potential landing spots we mentioned, we still believe the Sun Belt makes more sense. However, when a team intends to move to the FBS, you take the first offer given and make another move down the road.
For whatever Wright State’s plight translates to for other mid-majors, it’s not nearly as worrisome as the concentration of power in the Big Ten and SEC that could effectively inert mid-major conferences, particularly in college basketball. While not every school should be Division 1 (such as Hartford dropping to Division 3) we are more worried that small colleges around the country will close or drop sports altogether like St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York. The increasing costs of higher education combined with the lower enrollment rates is a dangerous recipe for small schools.
One of the classic clickbait-y article titles. All of them could add a football program but there’s no indication any of them will as of this posting.
Given what we know about college athletics (i.e. money is the most important factor), Gonzaga moving to the Big East makes sense as would the Pac-12 before UCLA and USC moved to the Big Ten. However, the latest rumors have Gonzaga going to the Big 12, which we specifically said wouldn’t happen because Gonzaga doesn’t have a football program. Oops. Count this as a common L for us.
Quite a bit on and off the field.
9/15/2022 – The College Football Playoff is Expanding. What Happens Next for Football and College Athletics?
TL;DR: We don’t know yet.
Well, this is awkward. This article discussed why college football games are lasting longer than ever and proposed some fixes. One of our radical solutions was to shorten halftime and get rid of the clock stopping following any first down conversions. Someone must have read that article and taken some notes because the NCAA is set to introduce a rolling clock after a first down is achieved except within the final 2 minutes of each half. Still doesn’t solve the real issue of ballooning commercial breaks but that ship has sailed.
This was all the rage in mid-December and it took less than 3 months for it to be put on the shelf according to Sam Herder of Hero Sports. All members are not completely on board with the idea of moving to the FBS even though they all agreed to such a move in December. This goes to show how quickly things change with realignment and it wouldn’t be surprising to see additional ASUN and WAC programs that have FBS hopes leave to achieve their goals sooner.
We’ve covered a broad range of realignment-related topics here. As with a lot of predictions, we were hit and miss with the jury still out on some articles. There are numerous issues to consider with realignment and one thing that will hold true for Division 1 moves: money will be the main driver. There will be additional reasons for realignment on a school-to-school basis – especially at the D3 level – but moving within D1 always involves the bottom line. We’ll continue to follow realignment, make predictions (good and bad), and provide opinions on some of the larger topics. We hope you enjoyed this self-deprecating article and you’ll be back for more realignment coverage.
Photo courtesy of the NCAA / NCAA Photos