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-April 2023 and provide updates on a few 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 two weeks. We’ve also summarized the news items in a table below if you are more interested in a specific news item.
|Realignment Change / Effective Year
|All D1 and D2 Football Schools
|New clock changes
|All FBS Schools
|No New Bowls in 2023
|ASUN and WAC Football Programs
|Forming New Football-only United Athletic Conference
|Yes – 2023-24
|ASUN and WAC (D1)
|United Athletic Conference (D1)
|CWU Committed to Football
|Bringing back Cross Country
|Yes – 2023-24
|Adding Swimming Programs
|Yes – 2024-25
|Adding Men’s and Women’s Hockey
|Yes – 2023-24
|Adding Bowling Programs
|Yes – 2024-25
|Field Hockey Joining MAC
|Yes – 2024-25
|Lewis Merging with St. Augustine (Chicago)
|Move to FCS/D1 Speculated
|American Southwest (D3)
|New Hockey Conference
|Yes – 2024-25
|N/A (New Sport)
|Adding Beach Volleyball
|Yes – 2023-24
|UC San Diego
|Yes – 2023-24
|N/A – Sport Cut
|Yes – 2023-24
|Dropping Seven Sports
|Yes – 2023-24
|Moving to D2
|Yes – 2024-25
|Reversing Athletic Changes
ASUN-WAC Football Partnership Has New Name and Single-Sport Waiver Denied
The ASUN and WAC will have a new era beginning in the fall of 2023. All current and future members will participate in the newly created United Athletic Conference, which will have its own structure while still allowing the teams to compete for an FCS playoff automatic qualifying bid. The 10 teams that will comprise the UAC – assuming no changes between now and 2025 – are Abilene Christian, Austin Peay, Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky, North Alabama, Southern Utah, Stephen F. Austin, Tarleton State, Utah Tech, and UT Rio Grande Valley.
In other news, the newly branded UAC was delivered a setback in its bid to become a single-sport conference. The NCAA has reportedly denied the UAC’s waiver request, however, the moratorium on such a move will expire on June 1 meaning there is still a chance it could happen should the Board of Directors not extend the moratorium again. The creation of this single sporty entity might have been part of a larger plan of the previously reported ASUN-WAC to FBS move from late 2022. If the UAC is denied again in the future, it would not be surprising to see current members accept future offers from established FBS conferences instead of hoping the NCAA changes its mind.
New Clock Rules for College Football
College football will see some drastic changes to the timing rules starting in 2023. Division 1 and Division 2 football will have a running clock after first downs except for the final two minutes of each half. In addition, consecutive timeouts and untimed downs at the end of the first and third quarters have been eliminated. This topic was discussed in-depth in November 2022 and one of our “radical” solutions was to eliminate the rolling clock on first downs. We really didn’t think it would happen, yet here we are. While D1 and D2 will have the new changes, D3 will not implement any changes in 2023. Given how quickly D3 games already are (2 hours and 52 minutes in 2022), there wasn’t as strong of a need to implement these new timing rules.
Opinion time (again): While these new rules will help speed up the game, these don’t address the elephant in the room of longer stoppages. Yes, the clock rolling after first downs might reduce the chance of a commercial break but that doesn’t stop them from slotting them elsewhere during the broadcast. Restricting the frequency and length of commercials (and replay reviews) should be the next target but all football fans know that the conferences won’t bite the network hands that feed them.
Lamar Football Not Going Anywhere
A report out of Beaumont, Texas by Fox affiliate KFDM looked into the cost of the Lamar football given the program has produced back-to-back one-win seasons. In the video report, Lamar CFO Mark Robinson said football “comes close to breaking even” and KFDM provided figures of $3.9 million in costs and $3.6 million. With a new head coach, money being poured into stadium upgrades, and the simple fact that football isn’t a huge drag on the university, this is a case of much ado about nothing.
UC San Diego Cuts Diving
The University of California, San Diego has decided to cut diving from its swimming and diving program. The diving program had a grand total of 2 divers on the roster in 2022-23 and given that UCSD is in the midst of a transition to Division 1, this move isn’t entirely surprising. UCSD is a member of the Big West Conference, which does not sponsor the sport. Five schools in the Big West – Cal Poly, Cal State Bakersfield, Hawaii, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Barbara – have swimming and diving programs but all of them participate in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The MPSF is a conference used primarily for Olympic sports that are not sponsored by the school’s main conference.
No New Bowls For 2023
In a bit of non-realignment news but noteworthy: there will be no new bowl games in 2023. The bowl executives made the decision on April 20 and will also keep the 6-6 record as the eligibility standard to participate in the game. The same report said there is interest in adding more bowl games above the 41 in place for 2023-24 and there were talks of making the bowl eligibility standard 7-5 with 6-6 teams in emergencies to fill a bowl game vacancy.
Tarleton State Adds Beach Volleyball
Tarleton State has added beach volleyball to its varsity sports lineup and will begin competing in 2023-24. Tarleton will be an affiliate member of Conference USA in beach volleyball as the WAC – Tarleton’s home conference – does not sponsor the sport. Tarleton State is the fourth WAC school to offer the sport after Abilene Christian, Grand Canyon, and Stephen F. Austin. The TexAnns will become the 7th C-USA beach volleyball program along with Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Jacksonville State, Tulane, UAB, and UTEP.
James Madison Joins MAC in Field Hockey
James Madison has found a new home for its field hockey program as the school will become an affiliate member of the MAC beginning with the 2024-25 academic year. JMU currently competes as an independent in Field Hockey and previously won the 1994 National Championship. James Madison was a member of the Colonial Athletic Association in 2021-22 but became independent in 2022 after they left the CAA following the 2021-22 academic year when they joined the Sun Belt Conference.
Vanguard University Applies to NCAA Division 2
Vanguard University (Costa Mesa, California) looks set to join a few other California schools in the NCAA Division Pacific West Conference. The NCAA released the official applications submitted for Division 2 membership with previously known schools and one new one in Vanguard. Vanguard is currently a member of the Golden State Athletic Conference but would like to join the PacWest. Vanguard would follow in the steps of Jessup University (2024-25), Menlo College (2024-25), and Westmont College (2023-24), which all previously announced their intention to join the PacWest.
Central Washington Affirms Commitment to Football
Central Washington University (Ellensburg, Washington) let it be known that the school is fully committed to football despite the recent decision by Simon Fraser to drop the sport. CWU and Western Oregon are the only two Division 2 football members west of Colorado and New Mexico. Both schools are affiliate members of the Lone Star Conference in football due to Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s decision to stop sponsoring football after the 2021 season.
Lewis University Merging with St. Augustine College
Lewis University (Romeoville, Illinois) and St. Augustine College (Chicago, Illinois) will merge into one institution. The two Chicagoland area schools will operate under the Lewis University name with the St. Augustine campus being known as St. Augustine at Lewis University. The process is expected to be completed by Spring 2024. St. Augustine does not have an athletics program while Lewis is a member of the Division 2 Great Lakes Valley Conference.
Upper Iowa Dropping Seven Sports
Upper Iowa (Fayette, Iowa) made a drastic change to its varsity sports with the announcement that 7 programs have been discontinued. Men’s and women’s bowling, men’s cross country, men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, women’s tennis, and shotgun will all end after the conclusion of this spring’s competitions. The decision will be effective starting with the 2023-24 academic year and coincides with a move to the Great Lakes Valley Conference at the same time. The school will still launch the new sport of women’s wrestling starting in 2024-25.
The University of Mary Adds Shotgun as a New Sport
While Upper Iowa may have discontinued the co-ed sport of shotgun, the University of Mary (Bismarck, North Dakota) will be adding it in time for the 2023-24 academic year. UMary is a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, which Upper Iowa is leaving after this season to join the GLVC as mentioned above. Shotgun will be the 20th sport offered by UMary and the school is hoping to begin the 2023-24 year with 20 athletes.
D3 Mary Hardin-Baylor a Possible Future FCS Team?
Mary Hardin-Baylor (Belton, Texas), one of the best football programs in the NCAA Division 3 ranks, has been linked to a possible move to the FCS. It must be noted this is purely speculation at this time and not a confirmation of an impending move. Texas Football thinks there is a path to the FCS, similar to St. Thomas (MN) when they moved from Division 3 to Division 1 when they were kicked out of the MIAC. St. Thomas is in the midst of a 5-year transition period from D3 to D1, a timeframe that would be similarly expected for UMHB.
UMHB is currently a member of the American Southwest Conference but the ASC is bleeding members putting the automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA football championship in jeopardy. The ASC will have only 4 football members by 2025 – East Texas Baptist, Hardin-Simmons, Howard Payne, and Mary Hardin-Baylor – down from 9 in 2022. There are numerous possible FCS landing spots including the Pioneer Football League, Southland Conference, or Western Athletic Conference. We’ve discussed the possibility of a D3 team joining the PFL before but the one caveat compared to the Southland or WAC is that they don’t have football scholarships. If UMHB joins a conference that does offer scholarships, it will need to fund those along with all of the other increases that come along with a D1 program.
Dubuque Adding Hockey Teams
The University of Dubuque (Dubuque, Iowa) will add men’s and women’s hockey teams beginning with the 2023-24 academic year. Dubuque is a full member of the American Rivers Conference but the ARC does not sponsor hockey so the school will play in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association. The school noted in the press release that it expects an influx of students from the soon-to-be-closed Finlandia University to help the program (and athletics at-large) immediately.
Misericordia Men’s Hockey Team Finds Home
Misericordia University (Dallas, Pennsylvania) will play its hockey games as a member of the United Collegiate Hockey Conference. The school announced the addition of the men’s hockey team in February 2023 and the school will take the ice starting in 2024-25. Misericordia is a full member of the Middle Atlantic Conferences, which now has six members that sponsor men’s hockey (Alvernia, Arcadia, King’s, Lebanon Valley, and Stevenson. Wilkes is a member of the MAC Freedom but is leaving for the Landmark Conference effective with the 2023-24 academic year). All six MAC members will play in the UHCH.
Vermont State Reversing Athletic Changes
Vermont State is reversing significant athletic program changes that were originally announced less than three months ago. In February, the school stated it would downgrade athletics at two campus locations. VSU-Johnson would downgrade from the NCAA Division 3 North Athletic Conference to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association while VSU-Randolph would leave the USCAA and become a club sports model. Both of those changes, which were scheduled to happen in 2024-25, will now be stayed for three years.
The original decision was announced by the previous school president Parwinder Grewal, however, the backlash against the athletic and library changes was strong enough that he resigned. Mike Smith is the current interim president and will help guide the recently established university. Vermont State will officially be established on July 1, 2023 when the institution of Castleton University, Nothern Vermont University, and Vermont Technical College merge under the VSU name.
NAIA National Convention Brings Changes
The NAIA will have a few key changes going forward after they concluded the 2023 NAIA Convention. There will be expanded postseasons in football (from 16 to 20) and softball (from 40 to 48) among other numerous sport-specific changes. Secondly, the NAIA formally accepted the College of the Ozarks back as noted in the April 15 realignment report. Perhaps the biggest change was expanding accreditation membership criteria to now include ABHE and TRACS, which could see additional schools join the NAIA in the coming years.
Three Schools Add New Sports
Culver-Stockton (Canton, Missouri) is bringing back men’s and women’s cross country for the 2023-24 academic year. The school dropped the sport for one year and has brought Hunter Davis from Iowa Wesleyan to lead the program. Davis was instrumental when Iowa Wesleyan restarted the track and field program in 2020. Culver-Stockton is a member of the Heart of America Athletic Conference.
Dordt University (Sioux Center, Iowa) is adding men’s and women’s swimming starting with the 2024-25 academic year according to SwimSwam. Dordt is a member of the Great Plains Athletic Conference, which does not sponsor swimming. However, Jamestown, Midland, Morningside, and College of Saint Mary are members of the GPAC that sponsor swimming and all four are associate members of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference for the sport.
Goshen College (Goshen, Indiana) announced the addition of men’s and women’s bowling with both programs starting in 2024-25. The addition of these two programs brings Goshen up to 16 varsity programs and they are the 8th school in the Crossroads League to sponsor bowling. Taylor University and Saint Francis (IN) are the two schools that do not sponsor men’s and women’s bowling in the Crossroads League.
Photo courtesy of Central Washington Athletics