It’s hard to fathom that it’s been five years since the first chips began to fall in the college athletics conference re-alignment shuffle. Some of the moves have proven to be game-changers for a few particular universities while other schools and conferences found themselves on the losing end of it all.
The best athletic conference conference in America got even more powerful after adding Big XII runaways Missouri and Texas A&M. With 14 schools now in the mix, the SEC unveiled its own ESPN affiliated network last summer and the money is continuing to roll in. 2014 saw the league earn a record $455 million dollars and that number will likely continue to grow in the future.
2. Missouri/Texas A&M
Speaking of the SEC, the two schools that joined the league in 2012 have both experienced success on the field as well as financially. Both Missouri and Texas A&M have renovated their stadiums and Kyle Field is now the largest stadium in the SEC following a massive overhaul. The Aggies have also produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Johnny Manziel and enjoyed unprecedented recruiting success in the state of Texas. Mizzou, meanwhile have managed to win back-to-back SEC East titles and continue to facility upgrades that would probably not have been possible without the move.
TCU was already an established program under coach Gary Patterson but had trouble gaining traction nationally as a member of the Mountain West. The Horned Frogs may have joined the must unstable of the power-five conferences in the Big XII, but they were able to split a league title last season and are continuing to stand out as a respected brand in the college football landscape.
After getting spurned by the Big XII for West Virginia, Louisville was able to land on its feet in the friendly confines of the ACC which has proven to be a great fit in both major sports thus far. The school’s brand is certainly on the rise and will be a great fit for the ACC in both the short and long term. Obviously, football is the straw that stirs the drink in college athletics and the Cardinals are helping boost the ACC’s reputation in that regard, meanwhile, they fit in perfectly with basketball powers such as Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse etc.
Utah may have seemed like an underwhelming addition to the Pac 12 (following the underwhelming inclusion of Colorado) but Utah has certainly thrived in its new conference and appears to be a natural fit culturally and geographically. 2014 saw the Utah Utes springboard into the top 25 in football, as well as make the NCAA Tournament in basketball.
The Big 10 wanted to continue to expand its footprint in 2014 and decided to take Rutgers much to the surprise of many. Bringing in the New York/New Jersey market was important for the Big 10 but Rutgers definitely wound up being the unattractive girl that gets asked to prom by the school stud. Fans of other Big 10 schools are surely chomping at the bit for those November road trips to Piscattaway, NJ.
1. The Big XII
The Big XII has been a comedy of errors for many years now and somehow has managed to downgrade in the midst of the conference realignment shuffle. After losing Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M, the Big XII attempted to fill the void left by those programs with TCU and West Virginia (which, by the way is a terrible fit geographically). The Big XII has yet to make it back to 12 teams and have tried to get by without having a conference title game, a move that may have cost either Baylor or TCU a playoff spot last season.
Likely the biggest misfortune to come from conference realignment is the loss of several important rivalries. Many bitter feelings have come from some of these moves and it never feels good to be the little brother left behind, thus, rivalries like Kansas vs. Missouri and Texas A&M have been temporarily (or perhaps permanently) put on the back burner until those wounds finally heal.
3. The Big East
The league was completely decimated during realignment and all that remains is a very mediocre basketball conference. Many former members have gone on to greener pastures, and others have moved over to the AAC (which I could not name five members of off the top of my head). Gone are the glory days of the Big East dominating the college basketball landscape and putting a (typically undeserving) team into the BCS.
4. West Virginia
West Virginia may be “wild” and “wonderful” but the Mountaineers are now an immense 870 miles from the nearest Big XII school (Iowa State). Had the Big XII taken Louisville, West Virginia would likely be a member of the ACC right now which would have been a much better fit. As it is, they are the distant cousin of a conference that has hitched its wagon to the state of Texas and could still implode at any given moment.
Nebraska likely made the right move by joining the Big 10 despite the fact that they are merely a junior member of the conference. They wanted to get away from Texas greed and now they are rewarded with intoxicating games with the likes of Illinois, Purdue and Northwestern each year. Oh and they are now locked into recruiting battles with Ohio State, Michigan, etc for a small pool of talent in an area where they are not established. The visibility of the once mighty Nebraska brand has certainly diminished since moving to college football Siberia, although the fan base and history of the program will likely keep the school relevant despite these obstacles.
Geographically speaking, the Pac 12 is a great fit for Colorado. They make the list merely because they were completely irrelevant as an athletics institution before the move and have, miraculously, managed to remain mired in inferiority in a conference where the likes of Utah and Arizona are having current success.