Hitting the Links: RIP Conference Realignment

Stacy Revere

Thoughts on which schools got left out of the dance as conference realignment slows to a crawl.

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On Friday ESPN's Ivan Maisel wrote an article titled "Conference Peace Has Arrived" which suggests that the major realignment we experienced in recent years is now over.

Need a quick recap of all the change?

A total of 44 FBS schools will compete in a different conference in 2014 than they did in 1997, the last pre-BCS season. That number doesn't include the schools that hopped from league to league as if they were speed-dating (TCU, Marshall, Temple, et al). Nor does it include the 12 schools that have moved up from the FCS or started programs from scratch over the past 16 years.

You can go back just a few years earlier than 1997 and see schools like Penn State and Miami not even in a conference. Indeed, the conference realignment era that lasted about 20 years appears over for the time being thanks largely to not many large schools having a place to go and the conference media rights.

The conferences with the biggest media rights packages carry the most allure. With the exception of the Big Ten, which will negotiate new rights deals next year (the league's current contracts expire in 2016), the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC have media agreements that extend into the next decade. In other words, the tectonic plates that produced one earthquake after another over the past 16 years are done shifting for a while. And peace and quiet settled over the land.

There are some schools that were left out when this realignment stopped, though. Some schools (ahem, Rutgers) pulled off a magic trick to enter a better conference with better money but the same can't be said for these schools*:

*I'm looking at this through a mostly football lens.

Central Florida

UCF is an enormous school (60,000 enrollment) that's really done well since joining 1-A football back in 1996. Since that inaugural season the Knights have won at least 8 games 7 times and they exit the CRE (Conference Realignment Era) as a hot up and coming program with 4 10+ win seasons since 2007 and a major upset of Baylor in the recent Fiesta Bowl.

If any movement starts up again you could envision UCF being a valuable commodity 20 years from now.

Cincinnati

I don't think there's a school with more to complain about with how the chips fell than Cincinnati. Their football program has grown by leaps and bounds since the new century began. They've had Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly, Butch Jones, and now Tommy Tuberville as head coaches, plus the 27th best winning percentage in the country since 2000.

The Bearcats basketball program is pretty good too, being a fixture in the NCAA Tournament for the past 25 years and generally playing well against the country's top teams. Things were looking great for the school's athletic teams until they were unable to join the ACC, Big Ten, or Big 12.

UConn

To say nothing about the football program being left in the American Conference has been a terrible blow for both basketball programs in Storrs. Both the men's and women's team's were top fixtures in the incredible Big East conferences and are now playing several steps below that competition. Geno & Co. are especially hard hit. The women's hoops team has been forced to add several top opponents outside of league play but are on pace to play just 1 ranked program in conference. That team is Louisville which will be leaving for the ACC next year.

A few years ago Bob Diaco might have had his hands full trying to compete but his path to winning won't be so difficult now. That's possibly good for his career but not a great long-term solution for UConn.

South Florida

How long ago was it that the Bulls were THE hot up and coming football program? Not that long ago, right? Of course we all remember the gypsy curse loss to USF to start the 2011 season but the Bulls' upward tick pretty much peaked. Since that opener USF is 9-26 on the gridiron, just 4-18 in conference play, in addition to experiencing some of the country's worst athletic department financial problems.

There may still be a lot of potential for a school like USF but UCF has surpassed them within the state in terms of football prowess.

BYU

The Cougars have courageously joined Notre Dame in the independent ranks and have done a pretty good job keeping up with all the demands. After a couple years on their own BYU has increased their schedule strength and played in many more nationally relevant games.

The question is, how long can it last? Or rather, will BYU be able to increase their prestige as an independent or are they pretty much relegated to the level where they've always been?

Boise State

Boise State never fit as an academic institution within the Pac-12 and this is a brutal example of how football dominance can't buy you a better life in a bigger conference. Since 1999 no team has even come close to Boise State's .850 winning percentage and they've certainly proved themselves enough on the big stage against major conference teams.

Now, Chris Petersen is off to Washington, the dust has settled, and I couldn't even remember which conference Boise State ended up in--or if they ended up moving in the first place.

NATIONAL LINKS

Nick Saban and Bret Bielema back a 'slow down' proposal which as you expect is the dumbest proposal in the history of college football.

No surprise here as Jadaveon Clowney thinks college athletes should be paid.

Michigan's tight end Jake Butt recently tore his ACL.

Mack Brown will get paid over $3 million this year from Texas.

Cincinnati's Munchie Legaux was granted an extra year of eligibility. The Gunner Kiel era might not start in 2014.

Speaking of conference realignment, Rutger is paying the AAC $11.5 million to leave for the Big Ten.

Steve Spurrier is upset with the negative recruiting coming from the Big Ten.

Hearings are beginning with Northwestern players' attempt to unionize.

Arkansas is planning on selling beer and wine at football games.

Arizona State and BYU have scheduled a 2-game series for 2020-21.

The structure of college athletics could change as soon as August.

IRISH LINKS

ESPN: 9 Irish Invited to NFL Combine

ISD: State of the Union

BGI: Notre Dame Eyes Another Top 10 Class

NBC: Academic Casualties Prove Foundation Remains at ND

NBC: Cooks, Heistand Named Top 25 Recruiters

HLS: Checking the Narrative: ND & Field Turf Part 1 and Part 2

HLS: Where Are They Now: Toryan Smith

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