There was lots of discussion this spring about teams jumping conferences… Lots of discussion! TCU and West Virginia actually did make the move to the Big 12, and there were rumors about Florida State and Clemson jumping ship as well. But for those who actually changed conferences, was it the right move? From a broader view, how has it worked out in general for teams which have changed conferences in recent years? Can even the best “mid-major” teams survive the so-called “grind” of a major conference schedule?
In the distant past (i.e. before 1990), when a team changed conferences it was generally to join one which was a better academic or geographic fit. Think Georgia Tech leaving the SEC to eventually join the ACC (via independence), or South Carolina doing the reverse. Today it’s a different story. Money generated by athletics has grown to the point where a school will actually consider joining a conference which is further away in order to grab yet more money. Imagine that – major universities motivated by money!
So we’ve seen several teams shift to/from major conferences in the past couple years:
- Nebraska: from Big 12 to Big Ten
- Utah: from Mountain West to Pac-12
- Colorado: from Big 12 to Pac-12
- Texas A&M: from Big 12 to SEC
- Missouri: from Big 12 to SEC
- TCU: from Mountain West (by way of Big East) to Big 12
- West Virginia: from Big East to Big 12
Obviously there’s a pattern here, as one conference (Big 12) has been involved in the majority of these moves. But I digress…
How did these teams fare after the conference changes, though? To answer that, let’s look at before & after win/loss numbers in-conference and overall: