The landscape of the Football Bowl Subdivision is going to have a new look as a handful of universities have already, or plan to switch conference affiliations. Football programs that have been synonymous with their current leagues are preparing to transition into a new era. The names of the conferences such as Big East and Mountain West have become irrelevant as geographical location no longer seems to be a concern for the heads of athletic departments or the directors of the collegiate level leagues.
The following is a breakdown of how each of the FBS conferences have been altered by the recent wave of movement.
Atlantic Coast Conference: The ACC is going to be deeper when it adds Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the fold. Both programs agreed to leave the Big East last September, which brings the number of ACC members to 16. Although neither program has been a powerhouse on the gridiron in recent years, the benefits of playing in a stronger conference will make both locations more attractive to top recruits. While both of the new additions came as a surprise, Pitt's entry into the ACC was particularly interesting after the school filed a lawsuit against its new league in 2005 for conspiring to weaken the Big East. The most likely entry date for both the Panthers and Orange is July 1, 2014 as they must endure a 27-month notice period required by their Big East's by-laws.
Big East Conference: Syracuse and Pittsburgh were not the only ones to depart. West Virginia is also leaving and in an immediate fashion. The Big East added Temple, a former member, for football-only beginning this season. The league will have an altogether new look in 2013 when it welcomes Houston, SMU, UCF and Memphis, who will all be imported from Conference USA. San Diego State and Boise State are also slated to stretch the conference's boundaries beginning in 2013. Boise State, which will be joining as a football-only school, has been one of the top mid-major programs in the country with only three total losses in the past four seasons. Navy will also be Big East bound, but not until 2015.
Big Ten Conference: The Big Ten has no additions or departures scheduled.
Big 12 Conference: The conference will have a new look in 2012, as both Texas A&M and Missouri are both no longer member schools. However, Big 12 officials managed to add another school from the Lone Star State in TCU, and a strong West Virginia squad to avoid lowering the level of competition.
Conference USA: This mid-major league was raided by a desperate Big East, and it reacted to the losses of Houston, Memphis, UCF and SMU by adding FIU, Louisiana Tech, North Texas and Texas-San Antonio (2013). Old Dominion and Charlotte will also be joining C-USA in 2013 for all sports except football, but will become full members in 2015. The rumors of a merger with the Mountain West seem improbable at this point.
Mid-American Conference: The MAC will be replacing the Temple Owls with former FCS program Massachusetts. The Minutemen will play their home games in Gillette Stadium (home of the NFL's New England Patriots) during their inaugural season as an FBS member.
Mountain West Conference: The MWC will increase in size in 2012 as it adds Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii (football only) to combat the loss of TCU. The league will take another hit when Boise State and San Diego State depart in 2013, but the 10-team structure will remain as San Jose State and Utah State join the fold.
Pacific 12 Conference: There are no scheduled changes to the football aspect of the Pac-12, which added Colorado and Utah prior to last season.
Southeastern Conference: The league that sent two teams to the BCS National Championship Game will be getting deeper in 2012 when it adds Texas A&M and Missouri. The two former Big 12 programs will make it a 14-team mega conference.
Sun Belt Conference: The SBC will have 10 teams in 2012 as it admits South Alabama's football program. FIU and North Texas are both out the door in 2013, but Texas-Arlington, Georgia State and Texas State will all be entering the league, which will increase the total of football programs to 12. The increase of size opens up the possibility of a conference title game in the future.
Western Athletic Conference: The WAC seems to be the odd man out in the conference shake-ups. It added Texas-Arlington, Texas-San Antonio and Texas State for 2012, but is going to be left with just seven football programs after losing Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii. There are going to be just two members with football teams left in 2013 as Louisiana Tech, San Jose State, Texas State, Utah State, UTSA and UT-Arlington all depart. The two remaining programs, New Mexico State and Idaho, are in danger of being relegated to the FCS when it's all said and done.
The changes to each conference in the FBS range from the non-existent to the highly dramatic. Overall, the top leagues either improved or remained the same. The Big East, which is considered one of the weakest BCS conferences, added a program which will help restore respectability to the league. The SEC and ACC continued to improve which will keep them at the top of the power rankings for the time being.
The less powerful conferences were hurt by the upward movement of some of their more successful programs. The MAC's approach of adding a successful FCS team (UMass) might not pay dividends immediately, but the addition has the potential to be beneficial down the road.
The WAC was depleted by the rapid conference jumping and faces a realistic threat of extinction. The top tier division of college football is the only major sport in the NCAA that still fails to name an undisputed champion every season. The possible eradication of lower-level conferences could be a step in the right direction, as it will give the best teams in those leagues a chance to prove their worth against traditional national powers.