Hello Realignmentalists! Nathan here with another dose of the latest stories to hit athletic realignment since, oh, the last time I posted one of these things. Without any more of that pesky “ado” stuff, this is the time of year when college students start looking for steady summer work, college teachers start prepping their summer schedules, and college athletic conferences start holding their annual meetings. After the last few hectic years, one of the common threads is how much they don’t want any further realignment. The Mountain West isn’t focusing on it. Conference USA isn’t planning on it. The Big 12 and SEC are up to here with it. The Sun Belt isn’t in a rush for it. Of course, after the last few years of tectonic shifts in the top conferences, I’m sure everybody’s a little sick of rumors and press conferences and who’s going where. That’s not to say they aren’t still keeping their ears and eyes open, or that, say, the Sun Belt isn’t looking to have 12 football schools or the Big 12 isn’t looking to make their conference name make sense, but at least some of the top-level shifts will keep away.
One conference that is looking to expand is the Big South. Of course, having just lost VMI to the SoCon, the Big South is certainly looking to even out their conference. Football in the Big South is a bit lean, with only 6 teams going forward from 2014. The Big South is currently situated totally in North and South Carolina and Virginia, but unless they want South Carolina Upstate, it may be hard to expand within that footprint. Kennesaw State seems to be the top replacement candidate, with their football team starting in 2015. Stetson or Jacksonville could be other possibilities if they decide to start offering football scholarships and leave the PFL. Then again, they could coax Campbell to upgrade their game and not worry about having to get a football school for their 12th.
Meanwhile in men’s lacrosse, Fairfield looks to be joining the CAA from ECAC Lacrosse in 2014-15. Of the four remaining schools, Fairfield was probably the one with the best chances for relocation. Fairfield will replace Penn State, who’ll be joining the Big Ten the same year. Oddly enough, Fairfield didn’t join their all-sports conference, the Metro Atlantic, which could signal possible movement outside lacrosse. This pretty much signals last call to the rest of the ECAC Lacrosse league, and while Hobart will at least have an NEC to fall back on, and Bellarmine will probably land in Atlantic Sun if nobody better calls, Air Force is the toughest one to find a home for. I still say the Patriot League should reunite the three service academies in the same league, though joining Denver in the Big East would be probably their biggest hope. Then again, if Connecticut takes this article’s lead and starts their own team, who knows what that’ll do to the picture.
Of course, plenty of people are looking at what might have been and still may be. Bleacher Report has a list of their most likely teams to join the Big 12. I’d agree with their #1, though I’d have probably put New Mexico higher. Of course, had the Big 12 gotten Louisville and the ACC gotten West Virginia, I think both sides would have been happier. That link pretty much sums up my feelings on why West Virginia holding off on the Big 12 would have been best for everyone, though you really can’t blame them for jumping while the mood was froggy. Who knew then that the Big Ten would stretch to the east coast?
Finally, the NCAA released its Academic Progress Report scores for 2013, apparently causing some chaos as far as who got banned for the next year’s postseason. While double-digit schools were cited for one or more teams, the major sport affected, men’s basketball, saw just six teams facing an early end to next season. Four of these schools, Grambling State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State, and Alabama State, come from the SWAC, meaning this upcoming season’s conference tournament will feature a mere 6 teams. That 2/3 of the schools cited were from a conference made up of Southern HBCU schools does lend some credence as to whether the standard is biased, though I’ll leave it at that as this blog isn’t here to make statements about race or class. (Unless the race takes place on a track, or the class is determined by their conference home.) New Orleans was also given a postseason ban, an unfortunate turn for their first year back in a conference (the Southland) since leaving the Sun Belt in 2010. Perhaps the biggest name to be hit was Florida International. Coming off a conference final appearance under coach Richard Pitino and coming within a basket of the NCAA tournament, FIU lost their coach and now their postseason before their first year as members of Conference USA.
And that’ll do it for today. I’ll be posting the rest of my July 1st Realignment Day posts leading up to the big day, when I’ll have a special column to commemorate the change of seasons. Until then, this is Nathan saying bye bye for now.