This is part of an ongoing series covering various college realignment news for all three NCAA Divisions as well as the NAIA. The roundup below will cover news and reports since mid-March 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. If a division is not highlighted, there has been no news in the preceding month.
Saint Francis (Brooklyn) Cutting All Sports
Saint Francis College in Brooklyn, New York made the shocking announcement on March 20 that they are eliminating all athletic programs after the 2023 spring seasons conclude. The school decided to focus on new academic programs as well as shifting the primary location of the campus to a newly built facility. The school also cited increased expenses against flattened revenue and enrollment as reasons for the dramatic change. Saint Francis was a founding member of the Northeast Conference in 1981 and the NEC will be at 8 members in 2023. The news to cut athletics happened only three days after fellow NEC member Fairleigh Dickinson produced the second 16 over 1 upset in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Monthly Pac-12 Update
In mid-March, Arizona State University president Michael Crow said the school was committed to the Pac-12 in a carefully worded interview with the student-run newspaper. The University of Arizona president Robert Robbins was optimistic about the upcoming Pac-12 media deal saying it will be better than the Big 12’s deal. Obviously, a university president is not going to make a public call to abandon ship as he wants to get the best offer possible – whether that’s in the Pac-12 or Big 12. Interestingly, there were multiple reports about Utah being against a move to the Big 12 and wanting to keep the Pac-12 band together. In fact, Utah reportedly told the Big 12 they are not interested in joining for academic and educational reasons.
What do we make of all this? Well… nothing really. Until the Pac-12 signs a TV rights deal and the membership is solidified, there will continue to be a deluge of articles about the conference. It’s not that all of these reports are questionable or wrong, it’s simply that the schools and conference need to reach the important milestone of a media deal before things calm down. Per Pete Thamel, we could still be weeks or months away from a completed deal.
Gonzaga to Big 12 Rumors Flaring Up Again
Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel was a guest on the BYU Sports Nation show and stated Gonzaga’s move to the Big 12 was inevitable. Mandel also reported that Gonzaga wanted to move all sports from the West Coast Conference to the Big 12, which the conference has agreed to. Finally, Mandel also reported that the Pac-12 has been slow to make assurances to Gonzaga. It’s not surprising to see this rumor appear once again during March Madness when the Zags are a highly-ranked team. It does feel as if Gonzaga is more likely than not to find a new conference. Given how long the Big 12 has been working Gonzaga, they are the clubhouse leader if the Zags move but the typical realignment caveat applies: anything can happen and happen quickly.
Fresno State a Possible Big 12 Target?
In late March, Fresno State’s president Saul Jimenez-Sandoval stated the university is being considered for Big 12 as a possible expansion target. The Big 12 has made no comment on the matter, however, commissioner Brett Yormark is on record saying they would like to find a member or members in the Pacific Time Zone. Overall, this seems like much ado about nothing. Fresno State wants to be considered as a potential target so they’re putting the “link” to a Power 5 conference out there. Meanwhile, the Big 12 isn’t in a hurry to expand for the sake of expansion. We’re not saying that Fresno State going to the Big 12 (or Pac-12?) won’t happen but this doesn’t feel like a move is happening soon.
OVC Adding Men’s Soccer
The Ohio Valley Conference is adding men’s soccer starting in 2023-24. The OVC will have 8 teams take part with 4 current OVC members – Eastern Illinois, Lindenwood, SIU-Edwardsville, and Southern Indiana – and 4 affiliate members – Chicago State, Houston Christian, Incarnate Word, and Liberty. As a result of the hybrid membership competing in the OVC, the conference will receive an automatic qualifier to the men’s NCAA soccer tournament beginning in 2023.
Football Potentially Coming Back to UT Arlington?
Students at the University of Texas Arlington passed a referendum that will begin the exploration process to bring back football. UT Arlington has not played since the program was shut down in 1985 due to high costs when they were a member of the Southland Conference. If football came back to UT Arlington, it would help the WAC maintain membership in football which is currently in flux and may continue to face realignment changes. While the UT Arlington student newspaper stated a football program could happen as early as 2025, there are many items that need to be addressed and we cannot discount the number of previously failed attempts to bring the sport back to UTA.
ACC, Big Ten, and Big South Make Commissioner Moves
The Atlantic Coast Conference is set to make Jim Phillips the commissioner through 2028. The ACC brought him on board in 2021 for a five-year contract and will give him a three-year extension. There were thoughts in some circles that Phillips might leave for the vacant Big Ten Commissioner spot but the Big Ten went with former MLB and Activision executive Tony Petitti to lead the conference. Petitti will oversee the additions of UCLA and USC in 2024 and his connections to major networks should help expand the Big Ten’s brand (as if it needed any help in that area). It will be interesting to see how Petitti handles the realignment aspect of college athletics given the strong hand the Big Ten (and SEC) already have.
In other conference commissioner news, the Big South named Sherika Montgomery to the top spot, replacing Kyle Kallander who spent 27 years as the top administrator in the conference. The Big South has seen plenty of realignment changes in the past few years and Montgomery will step in as all of Campbell athletics and the North Carolina A&T football program leaves for the CAA.
Division 2 Simon Fraser Dropping Football
The never-ending realignment wheel has claimed another victim. Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada) has decided to drop its football program. SFU is a member of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference but the GNAC stopped sponsoring football after the 2021 season. The three football-playing members of the GNAC – Central Washington, Simon Fraser, and Western Oregon – reached an agreement with the Lone Star Conference to become affiliate members. In February, it was announced that SFU and the Lone Star Conference would not extend the agreement beyond the 2023 season meaning the school would need to find a new home. Given the extreme distance between Simon Fraser – the lone Canadian school in the NCAA – and the Lone Star Conference members, that development was not too surprising. On top of that, the dearth of football teams playing on the West Coast in NCAA Division 2 really limits the number of options for Simon Fraser. The alumni are not letting this one go easily as they filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the move, which would reinstate football until the legal matter is resolved.
Holy Family Adding Baseball
Holy Family University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) announced it will be adding baseball to its sports offerings beginning with the 2023-24 academic year. As a member of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, they are the 12th school to offer baseball leaving Georgian Court University as the lone conference member without the sport. Holy Family has increased its athletics program in recent times with acrobatics and tumbling, men’s lacrosse, women’s bowling, and Esports all added in the last year.
Division 3 American Rivers Conference Searching for New Commissioner
The NCAA Division 3 American Rivers Conference will need a new leader following the resignation of current commissioner Dan Hammes. Keith Hackett will serve as interim commissioner of the ARC while the search is conducted. The ARC has largely been untouched in the last few realignment cycles given the large contingent of Iowa-based schools with the exceptions of Cornell College leaving in 2012 and Nebraska Wesleyan – the lone non-Iowa member – joining in 2016. The conference was previously known as the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) from 1927 through 2018 before it changed to the American Rivers Conference.
Birmingham-Southern Staying Open
After months of uncertainty regarding Birmingham-Southern’s future, we now know the school will remain open in the fall of 2023 following the Board of Trustees unanimous vote to do so. The school has asked the Alabama state legislature for additional funding but that idea was rebuffed meaning private funds are needed to keep the doors open. BSC has set a goal of $200 million to replenish the endowment and has already secured $46 million in pledges. The school and local officials will continue to lobby the state officials for additional funding.
Birmingham-Southern is a founding member of the Southern Athletic Association, which began athletic competition in 2012. The SAA is welcoming two new full-member schools in 2025 when Southwestern University (Georgetown, Texas) and Trinity University (San Antonio, Texas) leave the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
SLIAC Adds Wrestling
The St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference announced they would begin sponsoring both men’s and women’s wrestling in 2023-24. The SLIAC will have 5 wrestling members in 2023-24: Blackburn College, Eureka College, Fontbonne University, Lyon University, and Westminster College. The SLIAC will sponsor 17 sports in total in 2023-24 with the addition of men’s and women’s wrestling.
Five Schools Adding New Sports
Calvin University (Grand Rapids, Michigan) will join the single-sport Midwest Collegiate Volleyball League for men’s volleyball in 2024. The school announced the new sport addition in late 2022 and will not play its first match until 2024. Calvin is a full member of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, however, the MIAA does not sponsor men’s volleyball (the conference does sponsor women’s volleyball). Fellow MIAA members Adrian, Olivet, and Trine also participate in the MCVL.
Hartwick College (Oneonta, New York) announced it is bringing back softball in 2024-25 as the school’s 20th athletic program. The school will play one season as a club sport in 2023-24 before becoming a varsity sport the following year. Hartwick previously sponsored softball starting in 1991 through 2006. Hartwick will compete in the Empire 8 when softball begins as the tenth member of the conference.
Manchester University (North Manchester, Indiana) announced they are adding women’s wrestling to its sports offering beginning with the 2024-25 academic year. Manchester is part of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and the press release noted the school is the 50th D3 school to offer women’s wrestling.
Pacific Lutheran University (Parkland, Washington) announced they will add women’s lacrosse for the 2024-25 academic year. PLU will maintain the club sport status for 2023-24 as they begin to make the jump to varsity status. Pacific Lutheran is a member of the Northwest Conference and will be the 9th school in the NWC to offer women’s lacrosse.
Penn State Harrisburg will add field hockey to its sponsored sports beginning with the 2024-25 academic year. The school currently participates in the United East Conference, which is currently undergoing a merger with the NCAA Division 3 Colonial States Athletic Conference. Harrisburg will compete in the newly formed conference when they take the field in 2024.
Two Schools Find New Homes for Hockey and Diving
Salve Regina University (Newport, Rhode Island) will have a new home for its men’s and women’s hockey teams. Both programs will leave the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) and join the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) starting with the 2024-25 academic year. The NEHC is a hockey-only conference in Division 3 and includes programs from all over the Northeast.
Another school that’s changing conferences for one of its sports is the United States Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point, New York). Merchant Marine – as they are more commonly called – will join the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) in men’s and women’s swimming and diving as an affiliate member starting in 2023-24. Merchant Marine is a full member of the Skyline Conference, which is where the swimming and diving teams competed through the 2022-23 season.
SUNY Morrisville Adding Two Sports for 2023-24
Well, the headline isn’t entirely accurate because SUNY Morrisville (New York) will bring back softball and add women’s track and field in 2023-24. The school announced in August 2022 that it would pause softball for the 2022-23 academic year but left the door open for a return. Morrisville also announced it would be adding women’s track and field starting in 2023-24, giving the school 17 athletic programs. Morrisville is leaving the United East Conference after the current academic year and joining the North Atlantic Conference for 2023-24.
Medaille University Being Acquired by Trocaire College
Medaille University (Buffalo, New York) is being acquired by Trocaire College (Buffalo). The change will take place on August 1, 2023 for the 2023-24 academic year with Trocaire taking over the academics and athletics of Medaille. Trocaire plans to keep the athletic nickname of the Mavericks but not all sports programs will make the move. Reportedly, men’s tennis along with men’s and women’s swimming and diving have been cut with the 2022-23 academic year as the last season for all three programs.
The lead-up to this merger has been building for some time. The two schools agreed to enter into a co-op in August 2022 and Trocaire purchased six buildings from Medaille in January 2023. Medaille is a full member of the Empire 8 conference having joined in 2022-23. Trocaire College has stated there will be no change in athletics while playing under the name of the Trocaire Mavericks.
Collegiate Conference of the South Hires First Commissioner
In a running theme for this month’s post, there is more news on the commissioner front. Collegiate Conference of the South has hired Beth Vansant as its first commissioner effective June 1. She is moving to the commissioner role after spending five years in the Belhaven administration. Belhaven left the American Southwest Conference along with 8 schools that split from the USA South Conference to form the CCS in 2022. The conference is ineligible for automatic qualifying bids to NCAA Championships until 2024-25.
Roanoke College May Bring Back Football
Roanoke College (Salem, Virginia) is contemplating the return of football according to athletic director Scott Allison. The school has not played a game since 1942 although the city of Salem hosted the NCAA Division 3 National Championship game for a quarter of a century from 1993 through 2017. Roanoke would play its games in Salem Football Stadium should football return and would also add a marching band and a competitive cheerleading team.
Roanoke provided a fundraising goal of $1.2 million by June 1 to consider adding football again with $300,000 already raised. The current timeline would see club football played in 2024-25 and a varsity squad in 2025-26. Roanoke is a member of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, which has 8 football programs out of the 15 full-time members.
NAIA Iowa Wesleyan Closing at the End of Academic Year
Only a few months after announcing a new athletic conference for 2023-24, Iowa Wesleyan (Mount Pleasant, Iowa) announced it would close at the end of this 2022-23 academic year. The school is unable to obtain funding to offset the increasing costs of higher education against the backdrop of declining enrollment. Iowa Wesleyan was a member of the Continental Athletic Conference, which was made up of NAIA independent schools. The school had previously been a member of the NCAA Division 3 SLIAC conference from 2013 through 2021 but opted to rejoin the NAIA. The Tigers were slated to join the American Midwest Conference in 2023-24.
Iowa Wesleyan has a not-so-insignificant piece of college football history associated with it. The air raid offense pioneered by the likes of Hal Mumme and the late Mike Leach originated at Iowa Wesleyan. it’s not difficult to see the impact the air raid has had on college football with the ever-popular spread formation borrowing heavily from the air raid.
Cardinal Stritch University Closing
Another NAIA school announced it will close at the end of the 2022-23 academic year. Cardinal Stritch University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) president Dr. Dan Scholz made the announcement via a video message on the school’s website with May 22 marking the last day. The school will work with local colleges to ensure students can finish their degrees. Scholz cited the typical reasons we have heard for the closure: declining enrollment, financial difficulties, and a lack of resources. Cardinal Stritch is a member of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, which is seeing two other members leave after the current academic year. Roosevelt University is joining the NCAA and Division 2 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference while Trinity International is opting for an online-only model and dropping athletics.
College of the Ozarks Returning to NAIA
The College of the Ozarks (Point Lookout, Missouri) is making a return to the NAIA after a few years away. The school left the NAIA after the 2020-21 academic year to join the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA). The Bobcats and Lady Cats will return to the NAIA starting with the 2023-24 academic year although they will also remain a member of the NCCAA. The sports that will participate in the NAIA are baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s track and field, and women’s volleyball. In its previous stint, the school was a member of the Continental Athletic Conference, which is made up of NAIA independents; however, the press release did not say which conference the College of the Ozarks would join.
IUPUC Becomes Full Member of NAIA
Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus (Columbus, Indiana) has been granted full NAIA membership for the 2023-24 academic year. It was already known that IUPUC was planning to join the River States Conference beginning in 2023-24. IUPUC was formed after the split of the IUPUI Indianapolis and Columbus campuses, which led to the addition of sports at the Columbus location. The school started with men’s and women’s cross country, baseball, and softball in 2022-23 and will add men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball in 2023-24. IUPUC may also add both men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s basketball in 2023-24.
Georgia Gwinnett Eyes New Basketball Programs
Georgia Gwinnett College (Lawrenceville, Georgia) is looking to add men’s and women’s basketball to its sports offerings following the groundbreaking of its new convocation center. Currently, GGC only offers six sports: baseball, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, and men’s and women’s tennis. GGC opened in 2006 and has been a member of the NAIA since 2012-13 when it joined the Continental Athletic Conference comprised of independent NAIA institutions. There is no exact timetable for when the sports would debut as the sports need to be approved by the University System of Georgia. However, the building is expected to be completed in October 2024, which coincides with a possible first season in the 2024-25 academic year.
Brewton-Park Adding 3 Sports
Brewton-Parker College (Mount Vernon, Georgia) is adding 3 sports over the next two academic years. BPC will add men’s and women’s bowling in time for the 2023-24 season while men’s volleyball is also returning. The men’s volleyball program will compete as a club sport in 2023-24 before becoming a varsity sport in 2024-25. All three sports will be coached by Josh Branan. BPC is a member of the Southern States Athletic Conference, which sponsors both men’s and women’s bowling. The SSAC does not sponsor men’s volleyball meaning Brewton-Parker will need to find a different conference for that sport.
Photo courtesy of Mary Langenfeld/USA TODAY Sports