Is My School an Expansion Target? A Handy Guide to Conference Realignment

Is Your Team a Prime Expansion Candidate? Choose Your Own Adventure Below...

Is Your Team a Prime Expansion Candidate? Calculate Your “Realignment Score” Below

The Big Ten expansion carousel got rolling once again today, this time claiming that invites have been officially issued to both Virginia and North Carolina of the ACC. Until proven true, it’s just another round of ACC death hoaxes, so until I see some confirmation from Frank the Tank and/or Brett McMurphy, you can count me a skeptic here.

But nonetheless, it’s obvious that expansion fever is still very much in the air and everyone – especially ACC fans – needs to be conscious of the warning signs for this catastrophic disease. With that, we’ve created this helpful guide to assist you in navigating the twists and turns of your school’s conference realignment rumors. All metrics are completely subjective, though are all based on college football expansion moves since 2004.

1. Would my school be upgrading with a move?

From 2004 through all confirmed changes for the upcoming years, 55 of 60 FBS schools that switched conferences have made a significant upgrade in membership compared to their former leagues. So if your favorite school/alma mater would find itself in better company by way of leaving its current situation (and that is that case for all schools not in the Big Ten, SEC or Pac-12), please give them two points for this round. If your school is in those leagues, subtract two.

2. Is my school a founding member of its conference?

Again going back to 2004, 13 founding members of leagues have left or are planning to leave the conferences which they founded at one point or another. Among the most notable include founding Big East member Syracuse leaving for the ACC, and founding ACC member Maryland heading to the Big Ten. But overall, being one of the founding members of a conference usually means that school also possesses an unequal amount of power (we’ll get to the larger conversation around this in a second). The scoring here is a bit more complicated, but by conference affiliation:

  • Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12, MAC= 0 points
  • Big 12= 1 point
  • ACC, MWC= 2 points
  • Big East, C-USA, Sun Belt= 5 points

3. Is my school a key member of conference leadership?

Look at this question as a caveat to the previous two notes. Schools are largely willing to upgrade conferences unless that move robs them of their head seat at the table when it comes to leadership and decision-making. While money is huge in conference realignment, sometimes schools would just be happier being the boss. As has been the case, the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC schools aren’t going anywhere. And there is no leadership structure in the Big East, MWC, MAC, Sun Belt or C-USA. So, with that in mind, the following schools are much more locked-in than any financial benefits may give credit for:

If your school is any one of the seven listed above, subtract two from the overall score.

4. Is my school located in a major media market?

If your school finds itself within 30 miles or so of any top-40 DMA and is not affiliated with the Big Ten, SEC or Pac-12, you should add another two points to the total. At the end of the day, this is one of the biggest factors for potential poachers, so it needs to carry weight here.

5. Is my school an AAU member?

Specifically for fans of teams that appear to be in the Big Ten’s sights. The following is a list of (non-SEC/Pac-12) FBS schools that are not under the Big Ten umbrella now or in the future:

  • Buffalo
  • Duke
  • Georgia Tech
  • Iowa State
  • North Carolina
  • Pittsburgh
  • Rice
  • Texas
  • Tulane
  • Virginia

So, if your school is on this list, and finds itself associated with the ACC or Big 12, now or in the future, please add plus-one to your total.

Now, add up your school’s score. The higher it is, the more likely they’re an expansion candidate. Dreading a potential move? Encourage your school to change those circumstances – for instance, relocate campus to the wilderness, or like my school, elect to leave the AAU. Really, anything to avoid being part of Jim Delaney’s 24-team megaconference.

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15 thoughts on “Is My School an Expansion Target? A Handy Guide to Conference Realignment

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